16 August 2021

Johnson should apologise to troops and families over Afghanistan, says Tory MP

16 August 2021

A Conservative MP has called for Boris Johnson to apologise to the families of people who died in Afghanistan

John Baron, MP for Basildon and Billericay, has joined other politicians in criticising the UK Government as remaining UK nationals and their local allies try to flee the country following the collapse of Western-backed authorities.

Mr Baron, who said he was the only Tory MP to oppose intervention in Afghanistan and voted against it in 2010, has been consistently critical of the campaign.

This wider mission was born of ignorance, was unrealistic in its aims, poorly executed and thoroughly under-resourced – even the withdrawal is a shambles

He said: “The fundamental error was allowing the initial limited and successful mission of expelling al Qaida from Afghanistan in 2001 to morph into the much wider mission of nation-building in the following years, which meant we had to take on the Taliban.

“This wider mission was born of ignorance, was unrealistic in its aims, poorly executed and thoroughly under-resourced – even the withdrawal is a shambles.

“Our intervention now brings its responsibilities. In addition to getting our nationals out safely, the international community must now stand by those fleeing the country in fear of their lives, including those who helped British forces.

“As a country, we need to do our bit to reach out and welcome the refugees and asylum-seekers. The priority now is to save lives.

“On behalf of previous Governments, the Prime Minister should apologise to the bereaved families of service personnel, and to those personnel who are still paying the price for this folly.

John Baron (House of Commons/PA) (PA Archive)

“We also need to examine the lessons from yet another foolhardy intervention – for example, while always maintaining our guard against terrorism, it has distracted us from the bigger threat of hostile nation states.”

He was joined in his condemnation by former defence minister Tobias Ellwood, the Tory MP for Bournemouth East.

Mr Ellwood described chaotic scenes at Kabul airport – as people tried to flee the country – as “Saigon 2.0”, referencing evacuations in 1975 as the North Vietnamese army captured the city and ended the Vietnam War.

Mr Ellwood, a former British Army captain and current chairman of the Defence Select Committee, tweeted: “Chaotic exodus from Kabul airport. Apaches (helicopters) used to clear the runway.

“If this is not Saigon 2.0 I don’t know what is. Is this how we thought we’d depart Afghanistan? I repeat my call for a UK inquiry.”

Tobias Ellwood (Yui Mok/PA) (PA Archive)

Tory MP and former defence minister Johnny Mercer, who served in Afghanistan, tweeted that ministers need to “take responsibility” and Afghanistan “deserved better than the nil response this weekend”.

And Nus Ghani, Conservative MP for Wealden, told the BBC there was “a lack of foresight, a lack of understanding of Afghanistan”.

She said: “What message are we sending now? Working with us means that we will walk away and you will be slaughtered by the Taliban.”

She added: “In one fell swoop we’ve taken the country back 20 years.”

Pressure has been mounting on the UK Government over the withdrawal of troops from the country, and Parliament will be recalled on Wednesday so MPs can discuss the crisis.

The PM’s official spokesman said he recognised it would be an “extremely difficult time” for those who had been involved in the conflict.

Asked if Mr Johnson would apologise, he said: “Look, I fully understand that this must be an extremely difficult time for service personnel who served in Afghanistan and indeed the families of those who lost loved ones.

“As the PM has said, the UK can be proud of what has been done in Afghanistan over the past 20 years. It is thanks to their sacrifices that we’ve seen now no al Qaida attacks against the West for a very long time, there are millions of girls and young women who have been educated in Afghanistan, and that cannot be taken away.”

The best videos delivered daily

Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox