Wars aren’t woke; 10 questions Boris Johnson must answer over Afghanistan crisis – Patrick Mercer

THE term ‘virtue signalling’ hadn’t been coined when I was an MP, but I can think of no better phrase to describe Parliament’s recall over Afghanistan.

It’s too late for talk: it’s probably too late for anything except hot air and hollow lamentation, but here are 10 questions which might usefully be put by MPs to Boris Johnson in the House of Commons today.

Now, you’ll remember “You stupid boy!” used by Captain Mainwaring in Dad’s Army to such scornful effect? Well, I had a Mainwaring moment when President Joe Biden not only announced in the spring that the US would withdraw its forces from Afghanistan, but that operation would be complete by September 11 – the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.

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It’s a basic tenet of any military operation that you don’t tell your enemy what you’re going to do, let alone pick an anniversary that reminds him of such a profound event in history. Here goes.

Hundreds of people gather outside the international airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021. The Taliban declared an "amnesty" across Afghanistan and urged women to join their government Tuesday, seeking to convince a wary population that they have changed a day after deadly chaos gripped the main airport as desperate crowds tried to flee the country. (AP Photo).

1. It was interesting to hear no mention of Britain’s involvement in President Biden’s speech on Monday night. With this in mind, did Washington consult the UK about their withdrawal plans? If so, what did we do to dissuade them?

Bear in mind that President Obama planned to leave Afghanistan in 2014 and that he made the same, catastrophic mistake of announcing his plans to the Taliban. The resulting bloodshed and pleas from the Afghan government stopped him in his tracks, though. Also, we watched the Soviets bloodily withdraw in 1989 giving our strategists at least two dress rehearsals to study, yet we still seem to have been caught with our pants down.

2. The Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, has told us that “the whole world was taken by surprise” by recent events in Afghanistan. Can the Prime Minister explain the gross failure of our intelligence networks, analysts and planners? And following on from that:

3. After Mr Biden’s announcement in April of a US withdrawal it was clear (to even a casual observer) that a crisis would escalate in the weeks before that occurred. Will the PM now apologise for both he and his Foreign Secretary being on holiday at such a critical time?

A man holds a certificate acknowledging his work for Americans as hundreds of people gather outside the international airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, as the humanitarian crisis deepens.

4. Even more pertinently, just a few days ago the PM said “I don’t think the Taliban are capable of victory by military means”. Can he now explain why he was so ill informed? Yet Mr Johnson is fond of telling us that Britain is a sovereign country so here are some follow-up questions.

5. The Defence Secretary has admitted that we cannot operate without a US military infrastructure in Afghanistan. How can our armed forces have been allowed to fall into such a state of impotence?

6. The Taliban receives vital support from Pakistan. Britain gave over £300m in aid to that country last year; isn’t it now time for that sum to be seriously reconsidered?

It’s unfair to blame Mr Biden for the current debacle, as the chain of events which have led to this situation started when Bill Clinton launched missiles against al-Qaida in Afghanistan in 1998: subsequently, every president has been deeply involved.

This was President Joe Biden addressing the American people on Monday night.

But Mr Biden’s slow, stumbling response has done nothing to dispel the Sleepy Joe image. So...

7. China, Russia, India, Iran and a number of other nations are now seeking to plug the vacuum left by the Allies’ withdrawal. This is the time for real statesmanship, real leadership: shouldn’t the PM now divert the energy that he’s demonstrating on climate change and spearhead an international summit on Afghanistan?

8. Closer to home, Britain has a debt of honour to the Afghans who supported our operations there. What plans are there now to support the extra flood refugees from that country?

There are plenty of other debts of honour, of course. I’ve seen how injured veterans have been helped in the immediate aftermath of their wounds, yet dread long term care once the spotlight is off them.

A Taliban fighter sits on the back of vehicle with a machine gun in front of the main gate leading to the Afghan presidential palace, in Kabul, Afghanistan.

9. With a vast backlog of cases now waiting to be dealt with by the NHS, can the Government guarantee that our troops who are still tormented by the physical and mental scars of war don’t suffer unnecessarily?

10. Lastly. One of the PM’s own 
select committee chairmen has 
described the current situation in Afghanistan as the “biggest foreign 
policy disaster since Suez”. After 
that blunder Anthony Eden resigned. Should the Prime Minister follow his example?

I’d make a final point. Let’s be very clear, the Taliban haven’t changed, they will murder, rape and batter Afghanistan back to the Stone age and if we’re serious about ensuring our own safety we must meet fire with fire.

The Taliban scorn liberal values and will exploit our softness ruthlessly: wars aren’t woke.

Patrick Mercer is an ex-soldier and former 
Tory MP for Newark.

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