London, United Kingdom:
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who led Britain to war with the United States in Afghanistan in 2001, on Saturday condemned their “leaving” the country as “dangerous” and “unnecessary”.
In his first public commentary on the crisis since the Afghan government fell last weekend, Blair used an extensive article published on his foundation’s website to heavily criticize Western actions.
“Leaving Afghanistan and its people is tragic, dangerous, unnecessary, not in their interest and not in ours,” Blair wrote.
“In the wake of the decision to return Afghanistan to the same group that spawned the 9/11 massacre, and in a way that seems almost intended to parade our humiliation, the question both allies and enemies are asking is: has the West lost its strategic will?”
The ex-UK Prime Minister, a controversial figure both in Britain and abroad for his strong support for US-led military action in both Afghanistan and Iraq, went on to argue that the current strategy of Western allies would harm them in the long run.
“The world now doesn’t know where the West stands because it is so clear that the decision to withdraw from Afghanistan in this way was not driven by grand strategy, but by politics,” Blair said.
He added: “We did it as every jihadist group around the world cheered.
“Russia, China and Iran will see it and take advantage of it. Anyone who gets pledges from Western leaders will understandably view them as an unstable currency.”
Blair, one of Britain’s longest-serving leaders in power for a decade from 1997, forged a close alliance with former US President George W. Bush during the so-called war on terror.
His steadfast support for the increasingly unpopular military interventions in the Middle East cost Blair significantly, and was seen as a key factor for him to step down and hand over power to his successor Gordon Brown in 2007.
In his article, Blair insisted that the West’s withdrawal from Afghanistan would prompt allies and opponents to question whether it was “an era-changing retreat?”
He said the Western alliance should “give a tangible demonstration that we are not,” and take practical steps for engagement in the country and with the Taliban that has seized power.
In addition, he also called for a strategic rethink of the way the West is tackling “radical Islam” while launching a limited defense of Western interventionism.
“We have learned the dangers of intervention through the way we have intervened in Afghanistan, Iraq and even Libya. But non-intervention is also policy with consequences,” said Blair.
“What is absurd is to believe that the choice is between what we did in the first decade after 9/11 and the retreat we are now experiencing.”
Blair’s comments come as current Prime Minister Boris Johnson faces serious criticism over his handling of the crisis, including that Britain has been too weak to influence events.