Afghanistan meltdown WILL ‘inspire’ terrorists and is an ‘opportunity’ for al Qaida, warns Defence Secretary Ben Wallace
- Fallout from the collapse of the Afghanistan government after US troops pullout
- Ben Wallace warned that the perceived ‘victory’ by Taliban will inspire terrorism
- Defence Secretary said it is an ‘opportunity’ for al Qaida and West must ‘tool up’
The meltdown in Afghanistan will ‘inspire’ terrorists and represents an ‘opportunity’ for al Qaida, Ben Wallace warned today.
The Defence Secretary said the Taliban taking power will be seen as a ‘victory’ by extremists around the world.
And he cautioned that the West will now have to ‘tool up’ to counter a potential resurgence from the group founded by Osama bin Laden.
The grim message came as the fallout from the US withdrawal and collapse of the Afghan government continues. Thousands of foreign citizens and Afghan allies are desperately trying to evacuate the country from the airport at Kabul.
In interviews today, Ben Wallace said the Taliban taking power will be seen as a ‘victory’ by extremists around the world
Taliban fighters patrolling the streets of Kabul yesterday after the government collapsed
Theresa May was among the senior MPs warning during a Commons debate yesterday that Afghanistan could again become a ‘breeding ground for terrorism’ – the reason for the original invasion in 2001.
In a round of interviews this morning, Mr Wallace repeated his view that the US decision to withdraw abruptly from the country had been misguided.
And he suggested that the consequences will be felt for a long time to come.
‘Around the world Islamists will see what they will view as a victory. That will inspire other terrorists,’ Mr Wallace told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
Mr Wallace said ‘cyber geography’ was now more important that territory, as extremists organise online. He also insisted he hoped that the Taliban would be unwilling to host terrorist groups as they try to rebuild links with the rest of the world.
But he said: ‘I don’t think anyone’s denied that al Qaida is potentially going to look on this as an opportunity.
‘We will have to, obviously, gear up, tool up; we already have capabilities to deal with some of that.’
Thousands of British nationals and Afghan allies have been trying to get out of the country after the government dramatically collapsed and the Taliban took charge.
There have been grim scenes of women pleading to be let through the gates at the airport, and even reports of babies being passed over the railings by mothers.
UK ambassador Laurie Bristow, who has stayed in Kabul to process applications, has warned that there could only be ‘days’ left to evacuate people, with the extremists now controlling all access points.
Around 10,000 Afghan staff who helped the Western forces over the past year are now expected to come to the UK.
Theresa May was among the senior MPs warning during a Commons debate yesterday that Afghanistan could again become a ‘breeding ground for terrorism’
Troops board a Voyager plane at RAF Brize Norton yesterday, bound to help with the operation in the Afghan capital
The Government has also announced Britain will take 20,000 Afghans under a resettlement scheme, with 5,000 due to be accepted in the next 12 months. Women and girls as well as religious minorities and others facing persecution will be prioritised.
Downing Street said the Government will be encouraging international partners to emulate ‘one of the most generous asylum schemes in British history’ – but Labour said the offer was not bold enough.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is facing a huge backlash today after it emerged help for Afghan interpreters might have been delayed because he was on holiday in Crete last week.
The Daily Mail revealed that Foreign Office officials urged Mr Raab to call Afghan foreign minister Hanif Atmar on Friday – two days before the Taliban marched on Kabul – only for him to be ‘unavailable’ while on holiday.
The Afghan foreign ministry then apparently refused to arrange a call with a junior minister, pushing it back to the next day.
The Foreign Office said: ‘The Foreign Secretary was engaged on a range of other calls and this one was delegated to another minister.’