Boris Johnson says Taliban will be judged on ‘actions not words’ after regime claimed it has changed

Prime minister criticised for chaotic withdrawal from Kabul – and for being on holiday at the weekend, when capital fell

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Wednesday 18 August 2021 10:52
Comments
UK government ‘foresaw’ current situation in Afghanistan, Johnson says

The UK will judge the Taliban regime on its “actions, rather than by its words” after its promises of an amnesty and to protect women’s rights, Boris Johnson has said.

Opening an emergency debate, the prime minister faced criticism from MPs for the chaotic withdrawal from Kabul – and for being on holiday at the weekend, when the capital fell.

But he insisted the UK did “forsee” the Taliban takeover, although the speed of it had come as a surprise.

Mr Johnson insisted the “hard reality” was that Western nations had no option but to pull out without “US logistics, without US airpower and American might”.

And, on the Taliban’s promises, he told MPs: “We will judge this regime based on the choices it makes and on its actions, rather than by its words.”

The prime minister said the situation in Kabul had “stabilised”, although it remained “precarious”, telling MPs: “At the moment it would be fair to say that the Taliban are allowing that evacuation to go ahead.”

But he was criticised for the scale of the UK’s offer to refugees – admitting just 5,000 in the first year, with another 15,000 in “the long-term” from third countries.

“What are the 15,000 meant to do? Wait around and wait to be executed?” asked Labour MP Chris Bryant.

On the weekend chaos, Mr Johnson pointed to preparations to withdraw UK nationals having gone on for “many months”, claiming it was “not true to say the UK government did not forsee this”.

Labour’s Angela Eagle told him:: “He seemed to be making an argument earlier that he had anticipated something.

“Why then were he and the foreign secretary both on their holidays when this happened?”

Keir Starmer said the lack of preparation was underlined by a defence review, in March, containing “two passing references to Afghanistan” and none to the Taliban.

“The very problems we are confronting in this debate were all known problems for 18 months and there has been a failure to prepare,” the Labour leader alleged.

At a surreal press conference on Tuesday, the Taliban spokesman took questions from female journalists, claiming the regime was “committed to the rights of women”, but “within our framework of sharia”.

Mr Johnson defended the withdrawal, saying: “The West could not continue this US-led mission, a mission conceived and executed in support of America.

“I really think that it is an illusion to believe that there is appetite amongst any of our partners for a continued military presence, or for a military solution imposed by Nato in Afghanistan. That idea ended with the combat mission in 2014.”

The prime minister added: “We must deal with the position as it is now, accepting what we have achieved and what we have not achieved.”

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in