A Politico rundown of Boris Johnson’s previous comments on Afghanistan has been making the rounds on social media, with Dr Mike Galsworthy saying they show “how worthless” they are.
The prime minister will hold a third Cobra meeting in four days on Monday afternoon as a desperate struggle to get UK nationals and local allies out of the country continues.
His official spokesman said the UK will continue the evacuation effort for “as long as we are able to do so and as long as it is safe to do so”.
“Some people won’t get back”
But defence secretary Ben Wallace, who served in the Scots Guards, appeared to choke up as he spoke of his regret that “some people won’t get back”.
Speaking on LBC, Mr Wallace said: “It’s a really deep part of regret for me… look, some people won’t get back. Some people won’t get back and we will have to do our best in third countries to process those people.”
Asked why he felt the situation “so personally”, Mr Wallace replied: “Because I’m a soldier… because it’s sad and the West has done what it’s done, we have to do our very best to get people out and stand by our obligations and 20 years of sacrifice is what it is.”
It is a far shout from comments Johnson has made over the years, both as foreign secretary and prime minister.
Politco reporter Andrew McDonald has combed the Hansard archives for the assurances given by the PM and his foreign secretary on the conflict before everything went wrong:
Johnson as foreign secretary, February 21 2017: “The whole House can be very proud of the sacrifice made by those 456 British troops who lost their lives [in Afghanistan] over the past 15 years. Hundreds of thousands of women in Afghanistan are now being educated as a result of the sacrifice made by British troops and the investment in that country by the British people. There are people who are now getting food, water and sanitation, which they would not otherwise have received.”
Johnson, November 7 2017: “Daesh can be defeated in the ungoverned spaces where its fighters have made their homes and set up their headquarters, and it will ultimately be defeated in Afghanistan as well … we, and moderate Muslims everywhere, will win this struggle.”
Johnson, March 4 2020: “We of course stand shoulder to shoulder with the government of [Afghan president] Ashraf Ghani.”
Johnson, March 16 2021: “As I have repeatedly told President Ghani of Afghanistan, our commitment is for the long term … The U.K. is working hard to ensure that there is a viable process, and that we do not see a return to the kind of civil war that I am afraid has bedeviled Afghanistan. I believe that the legacy of this government and this country in Afghanistan … is a proud one. We must ensure that it is not betrayed, and that we leave a legacy in the education of women and the security of the people of Afghanistan that is lasting and that endures.”
Johnson, June 16: “I confirm that we see the education of girls and young women as one of the great achievements of the U.K. presence in Afghanistan over the last two decades. We do not want that to be jeopardized now, which is why we are working with our friends in the G7 and NATO to make sure that we leave a lasting legacy.”
Johnson, July 8: “There must be a peaceful and a negotiated settlement for the political crisis in Afghanistan, and the U.K. will continue to work to ensure that that takes place. I believe that can happen — I do not believe that the Taliban are guaranteed the kind of victory that we sometimes read about … We are keeping our embassy in Kabul … I do not think that the Taliban are capable of victory by military means, a point I have made several times … No, I absolutely do not believe that the sacrifice of British troops over the past 20 years has been in vain. I believe that they are leaving a lasting legacy in Afghanistan.”
Johnson, Sunday: “It’s very clear from what I said the situation in Afghanistan was going to change. It’s fair to say the U.S. decision to pull out has accelerated things. But we’ve known for a long time that this was the way things were going … We continue to attach huge importance to human rights and equalities.”