Terror attack ‘on scale of 9/11’ likely if Taliban cement control over Afghanistan, senior Conservative claims

‘I would not be surprised if we see another attack on the scale of 9/11....as a poke in the face to the Western Alliance to show how fruitless our efforts have been’

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Sunday 15 August 2021 10:25 BST
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A terrorist attack “on the scale of 9/11” is highly likely unless Boris Johnson intervenes to help halt the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, a senior Conservative claims.

Tobias Ellwood, the chair of the Commons defence committee, condemned the Western retreat as “completely humiliating” and predicted a “humanitarian disaster”.

But he went further, amid fears that allowing Afghanistan to disintegrate into a failed state will pave the way for the return of Al-Qaeda, which carried out the devastating 2001 attack on New York.

“Don’t forget that we will see further terrorist attacks,” Mr Ellwood told Times Radio, but speaking before the Taliban entered Kabul from all sides.

“I would not be surprised if we see another attack on the scale of 9/11, almost to bookend what happened 20 years ago, as a poke in the face to the Western Alliance to show how fruitless our efforts have been over the last two decades.”

Mr Johnson has insisted UK troops will not return to the country, after attempting, but failing, to construct an alliance to continue operations even after the US pullout.

But Mr Ellwood said: “I plead with the prime minister to think again. We have an ever-shrinking window of opportunity to recognise where this country is going as a failed state.

“We can turn this around but it requires political will and courage. This is our moment to step forward.”

The government should deploy the Royal Navy’s HMS Queen Elizabeth carrier strike group to the region, to provide air support, Mr Ellwood said.

“We could prevent this, otherwise history will judge us very, very harshly in not steeping in when we could do and allowing the state to fail.”

On Friday, the defence secretary Ben Wallace revealed his fears, saying: “I am absolutely worried. Failed states are breeding grounds for those type of people – Al-Qaeda will probably come back.”

The Tory chair of the Commons foreign affairs committee called the collapse of Afghanistan “the biggest single policy disaster since Suez” – and questioned the invisibility of Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary.

Afghans who helped the British now faced reprisals if they fell into the hands of the Taliban, he warned, Tom Tugendhat told the BBC, saying: “This isn’t just about interpreters or guards.

“This is the people who, on our encouragement, set up schools for girls. These people are all at risk now.

“The real danger is that we are going to see every female MP murdered, we are going to see ministers strung up on street lamps.”

Mr Tugendhat attacked a policy void, saying: “I don’t know what is in the works because we haven’t heard from the foreign secretary in about a week despite this being the biggest single policy disaster since Suez.”

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