Rest of Asia

British PM Boris Johnson calls for joint, not unilateral recognition of Taliban regime

Prasun Sonwalkar/London
Filed on August 15, 2021
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson attending a weekly Questions session in the House of Commons in London. Photo: AFP

UK parliament set to discuss the new situation in Afghanistan

Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday spoke to United Nations and NATO leaders and called for any recognition of the new Taliban regime in Kabul to happen on a joint basis, rather than unilaterally by individual countries, as the UK parliament was set to discuss the new situation in the war-torn country in an emergency session on Wednesday.

A Downing Street spokesperson said that Johnson spoke to the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the UN Secretary General António Guterres about the situation, and emphasised the need for a coordinated and concerted effort from the international community to tackle the extremist threat and address the humanitarian emergency there.

The spokesperson added: “He stressed the importance of any recognition of a new Afghan Government happening on a joint, rather than unilateral, basis. The Prime Minister called for meetings of NATO’s North Atlantic Council and the UN Security Council to take place as soon as possible to enable high-level international discussions on these issues.”

The British parliament currently in summer recess until September 6 will convene on Wednesday for an emergency session to discuss the fast-changing situation in Afghanistan, where Britain was one of the major elements of the western force since 2001.

Criticism of the US-led pullout from the country mounted on Sunday, with Tom Tugendhat, senior Conservative leader, former army officer and chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Commons, terming the withdrawal of British troops as the “biggest foreign policy disaster since the 1956 Suez crisis”.

Tugendhat, who was deployed in Afghanistan before becoming MP, alleged that Britain had “abandoned the Afghan people”, reflecting despair among many in the UK: “The danger is that we're going to see every female MP murdered, we're going to see ministers strung up on street lamps and this is the decision I'm afraid that has been taken. We haven't heard from the foreign secretary in about a week, despite this being the biggest single foreign policy disaster since Suez, so I don't know what the Foreign Office is thinking."

According to Tugendhat, the pull-out in Afghanistan showed a lack of "strategic patience", stripped the Afghan army of their logistics and air support, and "convinced them there was no tomorrow", which, he added, had emboldened the Taliban.

Defence secretary Ben Wallace has previously voiced concern over the US-led pullout, calling it a “mistake” that would have implications for security in the west and elsewhere. He revealed on Sunday that he had approached other allies about taking the place of US forces, but none was willing to do so.

He said: "A unilateral force would very quickly be viewed as an occupying force and, no matter how powerful the country that sends it, history shows us what happens to them in Afghanistan".

Labour's shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy said it had been "clear for days" there had been a "catastrophic miscalculation" by the US and UK, adding: "It beggars belief that in the face of all that, the [UK] government has been so slow to respond. What we need to hear now is an actual strategy from the government".

UK-based Nobel winner and education campaigner Malala Yusufzai tweeted: “We watch in complete shock as Taliban takes control of Afghanistan. I am deeply worried about women, minorities and human rights advocates. Global, regional and local powers must call for an immediate ceasefire, provide urgent humanitarian aid and protect refugees and civilians”.

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