PM's ex-adviser: West's Afghan pullout 'act of strategic self-harm'

Boris Johnson’s former national security adviser Lord Sedwill says the West’s Afghan pullout is ‘an act of strategic self-harm’ that will fuel global terrorism and boost authoritarian states like China and Russia

  • Lord Sedwill lashed out at the US-led retreat that left the Taliban in charge 
  • Ex-ambassador said it would ‘undoubtedly’ boost extremism and terrorism
  • Told Policy Exchange event: ‘This is in my view a bad policy, badly implemented’

The West’s abrupt withdrawal from Afghanistan is ‘an act of strategic self-harm’ that will increase terrorism and embolden China and Russia, Boris Johnson’s former national security adviser warned today.

Lord Sedwill, a former UK ambassador to Kabul, lashed out at the US-led retreat that left the Taliban in charge and stranded thousands of people desperate to escape.

He warned that that humiliating defeat which ended 20 years of conflict would ‘undoubtedly’ boost extremism and terrorism.

Speaking at an event hosted by the Policy Exchange think thank this afternoon: ‘This is in my view a bad policy, badly implemented. It is an act of strategic self-harm.

‘It was not inevitable that either this decision had to be taken or indeed it had to be implemented in the way it was.’

Former Nato chief Lord Robertson told the same event that the organisation had been weakened after the US’s ‘hasty, crassly-handled surrender’, saying Joe Biden’s nation had been ‘humiliated.

Lord Sedwill, a former UK ambassador to Kabul, lashed out at the US-led retreat that left the Taliban in charge and stranded thousands of people desperate to escape.

Former Nato chief Lord Robertson told the same event that the organisation had been weakened after the US’s ‘hasty, crassly-handled surrender’, saying Joe Biden’s nation had been ‘humiliated.

Taliban fighters atop Humvee vehicles parade along a road to celebrate after the US pulled all its troops out of Afghanistan

He added: ‘We cannot any longer rely on the American umbrella being there in all circumstances and at all times.’ 

Their criticism came after Defence Secretary Ben Wallace lashed out at the US, suggesting it was no longer a global superpower.

The Cabinet minister hit out in an interview with the Spectator magazine,  highlighting the UK’s inability to act without US support.

But in remarks that show how frayed the so-called ‘special relationship’ with Washington has become in recent weeks, he said: ‘It is obvious that Britain is not a superpower. 

‘But a superpower that is also not prepared to stick at something isn’t probably a superpower either. It is certainly not a global force, it’s just a big power.’

Lord Sedwill, who was Cabinet secretary under Boris Johnson until last year, told the Policy Exchange event: ‘The Taliban’s victory in Afghanistan will undoubtedly fuel extremism and terrorism worldwide, whether or not it is directed from there.

‘So the security threats have undoubtedly gone up and of course the wider geopolitical consequences are obvious.

‘If you are one of our authoritarian adversaries you will be right now going around the rest of the world to those countries that are in play and saying to them, ”You see, we told you so, we have the strategic patience and they don’t”.’

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