US Troop Exit From Afghanistan Risks 'Losing The Peace', Former Defence Minister Warns

Tobias Ellwood MP said US President Joe Biden's foreign policy decision was "concerning" and "not the right move".

A former defence minister has warned that the US decision to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan by the autumn risks "losing the peace".

Senior Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood said Washington's move would make it "very difficult" for British troops to remain in the battle-ravaged country.

Mr Ellwood said the consequent vacuum could allow extremists to "regroup".

US President Joe Biden has announced that he will withdraw all 2,500 American troops from Afghanistan by 11 September.

The date is the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on America that were coordinated from Afghanistan.

Speaking to Times Radio, Mr Ellwood said Mr Biden's foreign policy decision was "concerning" and "not the right move".

"It reflects the troubles we've had in interventions over the last couple of decades where we win the war, but lose the peace," the chairman of the Commons Defence Committee said.

"We don’t put enough effort into the stabilisation and the peacekeeping, the nation building, and encouraging better governance, better security, that indigenous capability so they can look after their own affairs.

"Instead, as we’ve seen in Iraq as well, we defeat the bad guys and then we withdraw, we don’t do enough to then lift the country off its knees.

"And I fear that we will see – in fact it’s happening already – is extremism will regroup in Afghanistan in the way that it’s regrouping in Iraq, and indeed, to some degree in east Africa as well."

Sunset behind Gardez mountains in Afghanistan 150618 CREDIT NATO
The UK currently has approximately 750 personnel in Afghanistan (Picture: NATO).

Asked whether he thought the US troop withdrawal was a signal that Britain could exit from Afghanistan as well, the Army reservist replied: "Yes it is.

"It's a reflection that we went in there as a coalition, and if the biggest partner in that coalition chooses to step back, it makes it very difficult."

Mr Ellwood said there was still hope that a ceasefire could be negotiated with the Taliban before soldiers withdraw fully by September.

"It could be – troops aren't leaving immediately – that this will prompt Afghanistan leadership itself to advance the talks and get some form of peace settlement," he added.

The Government said any decision on the presence of the UK Armed Forces in the country would be taken "in agreement with allies".

The UK currently has approximately 750 personnel in Afghanistan.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab was travelling to Brussels on Wednesday afternoon to discuss Afghanistan with NATO partners, as well as hostilities on the Ukrainian border.

A spokeswoman said: "We are working closely with the US, NATO allies and partners to support a secure and stable Afghanistan.

"For there to be any chance of a lasting peace, the Taliban must engage meaningfully in a dialogue with the Afghan government.

"Any change to our security presence will be made in agreement with allies and after consultation with our partners."

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace is reportedly due to meet US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in the "coming days".

Cover image: A US infantry soldier keeps watch in eastern Afghanistan in 2018 (Picture: US Department of Defense).