A former soldier-turned-Conservative MP warned Afghanistan “damn well feels like” defeat, as he urged a fresh “vision” must be developed to help.
Tom Tugendhat, who served in Afghanistan, was applauded following an emotive Commons speech in which he also recalled his experiences in the country.
He touched on the efforts of the military, aid workers, journalists and others before noting: “I know that we’ve all been struggling and if this recall has done one thing… I’ve spoken to the health secretary, he’s already made a commitment to do more for veterans’ mental health.”
Tugendhat said it was with “great sadness” that he was to criticise the US, noting: “To see their commander in chief (President Joe Biden) call into the question the courage of men I fought with, to claim that they ran is shameful.
“Those who have not fought for the colours they fly should be careful about criticising those who have.”
“I’ve watched good men go into the earth, taking with them a part of me, a part of all of us.”@TomTugendhat — who served in Afghanistan — said he’d had assurances from the health secretary that more would be done to support veteran mental health pic.twitter.com/tTrNNh8wDP— PoliticsHome (@politicshome) August 18, 2021
Tugendhat suggested the West and the UK had not shown patience, adding: “This is a harsh lesson for all of us and if we’re not careful it could be a very, very difficult lesson for our allies. It doesn’t need to be.
“We can set out a vision, clearly articulate it, for reinvigorating our European Nato partners, to make sure that we are not dependent on a single ally, on the decision of a single leader, that we can work together with Japan and Australia, France and Germany, with partners large and small and make sure we hold the line together.”
He ended by recalling his time as an adviser to the governor of Helmand and the “joy” given to families by the opening of schools for girls, adding: “I didn’t understand it until I took my own daughter to school about a year ago.
“There was a lot of crying when she first went in, but I got over it and it went okay. I’d love to see that continue.”
He left MPs with a second, “harder” image, which he explained: “It’s one that the forever war that has just reignited could lead to.
“It is the image of a man whose name I never knew, carrying a child who had died hours earlier, carrying this child into our fire base and begging for help.
“There was nothing we could do. It was over. This is what defeat looks like when you no longer have the choice of how to help.
“This doesn’t need to be defeat but at the moment it damn well feels like it.”
Watch his speech in full below.