Politics

Tony Blair ‘created’ Afghanistan mess and ‘shouldn’t ‘be taken seriously’ expert rages

Tony Blair calls for more UK counter-terrorism measures

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On Monday, in a speech to mark 20 years since the 9/11 terror attack, Mr Blair challenged US president Joe Biden by saying nation-building must be used by the West as a means of combating radical Islamism. Mr Biden had previously stated that nation-building had ended with the US’ withdrawal from Afghanistan after 20-years in the country. Mr Blair stressed: “Our remaking didn’t fail because the people didn’t want the country ‘remade’.

“For sure, we could have ‘remade’ better, but the Afghans did not choose the Taliban takeover.

“They conquered the country by violence not persuasion.”

The former prime minister, who sent UK troops to Afghanistan in 2001 after 9/11, added that the US’s reluctance to have boots on the ground increased the possibility of terrorist attacks on the West.

Scottish historian and Afghanistan expert William Dalrymple claimed however, that Tony Blair’s general opinions on the region should not be taken seriously.

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Mr Dalrymple told Express.co.uk: “Tony Blair succeeded on all sorts of fronts domestically but his reputation is in tatters now because he never understood foreign policy, particularly in the Islamic world.

“The way he signed up unconditionally for George Bush’s war was the reason that no one listens to a word Tony Blair says today.

“In a sense he is the last person to be telling us what to do when he created the whole mess in the first place.

“He’s never understood the Islamic world – he screwed it up in Afghanistan, he screwed it up in Iraq, he then went to the Middle East Peace Process and screwed it up a third time.”

Mr Dalrymple joked: “It’s like someone who’s brilliant at everything but just can’t dance, yet decides to become a ballet dancer – he’s a proven dud.

“He could have been an opera singer, he could have been a rugby international, but he was never going to be a dancer.”

“So Blair, I wouldn’t take seriously on this.”

Mr Dalrymple released the critically acclaimed book Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan in 2012, which details Britain’s military humiliation in the First Anglo-Afghan War from 1839 to 1842.

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A year before the book’s release the author predicted disaster for Western forces in Afghanistan, in an interview with Intelligence Squared.

Mr Dalrymple added that President Biden and his predecessor Donald Trump were also rightly receiving criticism for the US’ botched withdrawal from the region.

He said: “The number of Americans in Afghanistan were very small and there weren’t masses of body bags coming home.

“It was thoroughly sustainable, and mainly involved providing contractors weaponry, trainers, and also the air cover that was necessary.

“There were several things that went wrong.

“First of all by providing recognition to the Taliban the way they did with the Doha talks under Trump they immediately opened the way for lots of other nations such as China to begin negotiations with the Taliban.

“Then as soon as they announced that they were going to get out by a certain date they lost their leverage.

“There is nothing to negotiate – the Taliban just have to hold on and Bob’s your uncle.”

Mr Dalrymple added the manner in which the US disengaged, reportedly without warning the Afghans, was “entirely unnecessary.”

He said: “Leaving 6000 vehicles on the ground but taking the keys and turning the lights off […] was completely unnecessary and gave the public signal that the US had completely dropped the Afghan government.”

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