‘Drawdown’ of UK troops from Afghanistan confirmed as Wallace fires warning

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The Defence Secretary has said any attacks on Allied troops will be “met with a forceful response” as he confirmed the withdrawal of the British Armed Forces from Afghanistan.

Ben Wallace said the security of those still serving in the country “remains our priority” as he announced the “drawdown”.

In a statement made after the confirmed withdrawal of Nato forces from May 1, Mr Wallace said: “The people of Afghanistan deserve a peaceful and stable future.

Defence Command Paper
Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace (Andrew Matthews/PA)

“The British public and our Armed Forces community, both serving and veterans, will have lasting memories of our time in Afghanistan.

“Most importantly we must remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice, who will never be forgotten.”

Former defence minister Tobias Ellwood previously said the US’s decision to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan by the autumn risks “losing the peace”.

The senior Conservative MP said Washington’s move would make it “very difficult” for British troops to remain in the battle-ravaged country and that the subsequent vacuum could allow extremism to “regroup”.

President Joe Biden announced he will withdraw all 2,500 American troops from Afghanistan by September 11, the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on America that were coordinated from the Asian country.

“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.”

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

Coronavirus – Thu Dec 17, 2020
Former defence minister Tobias Ellwood (Yui Mok/PA)

The Government previously said any decision on the presence of armed forces in the country would be taken “in agreement with allies”.

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.”

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

Mr Ellwood predicted the pair would discuss the situation in Afghanistan and the increasing destabilisation across the globe.

“The threat picture across the world is deteriorating – there is a 1930s feel to the world I think at the moment, with the rules-based order being tested at breaking point, international institutions not really working well any more and global strategic powerbases once again on the move,” he added.

“We’ve got China doing its thing, Russia very aggressive, not least in what is happening in Ukraine – the agenda is going to be very busy indeed.”

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