Defence secretary Ben Wallace admits 20-year Afghanistan campaign was a ‘failure’ 

Defence secretary Ben Wallace admits 20-year Afghanistan campaign was a ‘failure’ 

Defence secretary Ben Wallace admits 20-year Afghanistan campaign was a ‘failure’

  • Monday marks anniversary of UK and US’ chaotic withdrawal from the country
  • Mr Wallace told Mail+ of his visit to a war memorial dedicated to troops killed
  • He spoke of fear that grieving parents may feel they gave their lives for nothing 

Ben Wallace today admitted Britain’s bloody campaign in Afghanistan was a failure and said the reasons for intervening ‘crumbled before our eyes’ during last year’s chaotic withdrawal.

Monday marks the anniversary of the UK and the US pulling out of the country, allowing the Taliban to arrive unopposed into Kabul and sweep back into power.

The Defence Secretary told Mail+ Defence and Diplomacy Editor Mark Nicol of a visit to a war memorial dedicated to the hundreds of British troops killed during the 20-year operation, and spoke of his fear that their grieving parents would feel they had gave their lives for nothing.

Ben Wallace today admitted Britain’s bloody campaign in Afghanistan was a failure and said the reasons for intervening ‘crumbled before our eyes’ during last year’s chaotic withdrawal

‘We’d gone there for the right reasons and stayed for 20 years, we’d done security, economic development, education, but we’d failed,’ he told Mail+.

‘And history told us when the West left the country it was going to go back to how it had been.

‘We were leaving people behind, conceding the country to the Taliban and the Haqqani network, mainly because the West didn’t really want to stay. And if they didn’t want to stay, why did they go there at all?’

The Taliban launched a 10-day takeover of Afghanistan in August last year as United States-led forces withdrew from the country.

This was despite billions of dollars being spent by the US and Nato over nearly two decades to build up Afghan security forces.

The takeover culminated in the fall of the capital Kabul on August 15 as president Ashraf Ghani fled to Abu Dhabi and admitted the Taliban had won.

Chaos ensued at Kabul’s airport as people tried to flee, with refugees pictured clinging to planes as they tried to take off.

Since then the Taliban have barred girls at secondary school from returning to class and ordered all women to cover their faces in public.

The Defence Secretary himself choked up last year as he talked about the consequences of the collapse of the Western-trained Afghan army. 

Ben Wallace today admitted Britain's bloody campaign in Afghanistan was a failure and said the reasons for intervening 'crumbled before our eyes' during last year's chaotic withdrawal

Ben Wallace today admitted Britain’s bloody campaign in Afghanistan was a failure and said the reasons for intervening ‘crumbled before our eyes’ during last year’s chaotic withdrawal

Mr Wallace – who himself served in the military before entering politics – said he felt the issue so deeply because he was a soldier. 

It comes as it emerged yesterday that the government is housing Afghan refugees in hotels at a cost of £1million a day.

Around 9,500 refugees are understood to be living in the 70 hotels as they wait for more settled accommodation.

Officials recognise that living in hotels is not the best situation for families and are working to move them into permanent homes as quickly as possible.

The delays are said to be down to the complexities of matching families with appropriate homes, as well as pre-existing pressures on the housing system.

Around 7,000 Afghan evacuees are said to have been moved into settled accommodation since arriving in the country.

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Mark Nicol

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