Tory MP Tobias Ellwood deletes video ‘lauding’ Taliban in Afghanistan

The Commons Defence Committee chairman faced criticism from fellow Conservatives over the clip.

Sam Blewett
Wednesday 19 July 2023 22:31 BST
Tobias Ellwood has deleted a video mentioning the Taliban in Afghanistan (Yui Mok/PA)
Tobias Ellwood has deleted a video mentioning the Taliban in Afghanistan (Yui Mok/PA) (PA Archive)

Conservative Tobias Ellwood has expressed regret and deleted a video in which he praised the Taliban for tackling opium and corruption after he faced criticism from fellow MPs.

The Commons Defence Committee chairman was condemned by a fellow Conservative member of the cross-party group for the “utterly bizarre” clip “lauding” the Taliban’s governance of Afghanistan.

Taliban chief spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid praised Mr Elwood’s “positive” report from Helmand province, which the MP has now removed from Twitter.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said on Wednesday he will “look into” the video filmed during a visit to the nation recaptured by the fundamentalists as the West removed its troops.

Mr Ellwood, a former defence minister who served in the Army, conceded that the “video could be done better”.

The MP for Bournemouth East told TalkTV’s Piers Morgan Uncensored: “It’s important to put your hand up and acknowledge errors, however well intentioned.

“I stand up, I speak my mind. I try and find solutions especially on the international stage, and I’m very, very sorry that my reflection of my visit could have been much better worded and have been taken out of context.”

Mr Ellwood added: “I’ll be very clear the last couple of days have probably been the most miserable as a Member of Parliament. I got it wrong.”

Mark Francois told the Commons his colleague should be “very careful” in expressing his views if he wanted to remain as chair of the committee.

He described the video as “utterly bizarre”, arguing it was “lauding the Taliban’s management of the country”.

Committee members were describing it as a “wish-you-were-here video”, Mr Francois said.

He added: “I wish to make plain on behalf of the committee he was speaking for himself, even though he used the title of chairman of our committee in a number of associated articles. Not in our name.”

Mr Ellwood has been urging the Government to reopen the British embassy in Kabul so that progressive improvements for girls’ education can be encouraged “incrementally”.

In his video, he claimed that security in Afghanistan had “vastly improved” since the Taliban had returned to power, “corruption is down” and the opium trade has “all but disappeared”.

He suggested western countries should “incrementally” encourage the uptake of women’s rights by engaging with the new regime.

“After Nato’s dramatic departure, should the West now engage with the Taliban? You quickly appreciate this war-weary nation is for the moment accepting a more authoritarian leadership in exchange for stability,” he said.

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