Sir John Major blasts 'strategically stupid' exit from Afghanistan

Sir John Major blasts 'strategically stupid' exit from Afghanistan

Sir John Major blasts ‘strategically very stupid’ decision to withdraw from Afghanistan as senior Tory MP Tobias Ellwood says ‘unseemly squabbling’ between Dominic Raab and Ben Wallace over the UK’s exit ‘must stop’

  • Sir John Major has labelled UK and US exit from Afghanistan ‘strategically stupid’
  • Former PM also blasted UK’s failure to evacuate all British allies as ‘shameful’
  • Tory MP Tobias Ellwood said ‘unseemly’ Whitehall blame game ‘must stop’


Sir John Major has labelled the UK and US withdrawal from Afghanistan ‘strategically very stupid’ as he blasted the ‘shameful’ failure to evacuate all British allies. 

The former prime minister said pulling out allied troops ‘abruptly and in my view unnecessarily’ will be a ‘stain on the reputation of the West’ for at least a lifetime.

His comments came as Tobias Ellwood, the Tory chairman of the Defence Select Committee, said ‘unseemly, unprofessional squabbling’ between Dominic Raab and Ben Wallace over the UK’s exit ‘must stop’. 

The Foreign Secretary has suggested military intelligence failings were to blame for the UK failing to anticipate the speed of the Taliban takeover while the Defence Secretary claimed he argued in July the ‘game is up’. 

Sir John Major has labelled the UK and US withdrawal from Afghanistan ‘strategically very stupid’ as he blasted the ‘shameful’ failure to evacuate all British allies

Tobias Ellwood, the Tory chairman of the Defence Select Committee, said 'unseemly, unprofessional squabbling' between Dominic Raab and Ben Wallace over the UK's exit 'must stop'

Tobias Ellwood, the Tory chairman of the Defence Select Committee, said ‘unseemly, unprofessional squabbling’ between Dominic Raab and Ben Wallace over the UK’s exit ‘must stop’

Sir John, speaking at the FT Weekend Festival, said: ‘I think we were wrong to leave Afghanistan, I think we were wrong morally but we were also wrong practically.

‘I think it was shameful that we weren’t able to take out those who had worked for us in one capacity or another, or who had worked carrying out the changes to Afghanistan that the Taliban won’t approve of.

‘It’s also I think strategically very stupid.’

The former premier rebuked US President Joe Biden for insisting his troops had to leave the nation by the hard deadline of August 31 after two decades in Afghanistan.

‘The fact that it was left in that fashion will leave a stain on the reputation of the West that will last for a very long time and certainly through the whole of the lifetime of those people in Afghanistan whom we have returned to Taliban rule,’ Sir John said.

Sir John’s excoriating criticism came after Mr Raab returned from a diplomatic tour to the region to try to assist those left behind after the Taliban took over Afghanistan.

Thousands of Afghans who helped British efforts there, their relatives and other vulnerable civilians, are feared to have been left behind after the US decided to pull out its troops.  

Mr Raab, who has been criticised for holidaying in Crete in August as the Taliban swept to power, has been unable to say how many Afghans were left behind.

More than 8,000 former Afghan staff and their family members were among the 15,000-plus people evacuated by the UK since August 13.

But up to 1,100 Afghans deemed eligible were estimated to have been left behind, though that figure will fall short of the true number the UK would wish to help.

Meanwhile, Mr Ellwood has called for the Whitehall ‘blame game’ over Afghanistan to come to an end. 

Ben Wallace

Dominic Raab

Ben Wallace and Dominic Raab engaged in a public row last week as they disagreed over the circumstances surrounding the UK’s exit from Afghanistan

He said the UK has ’caused further reputational damage in the unattractive blame game over Afghanistan that has played out so publicly between the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office’.

‘This unseemly, unprofessional squabbling must stop,’ he wrote in the Observer.

The Foreign Secretary held talks in Pakistan on Friday to discuss British nationals and Afghan citizens crossing the land border in order to find safety.

He also visited Qatar for talks about reopening Kabul airport in order to resume evacuations. 

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Jack Maidment

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