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The Telegraph

Taliban won’t get ‘free rein’ when troops exit Afghanistan, Armed Forces minister says

When James Heappey, the minister for the Armed Forces, thinks of the 20-year warfare in Afghanistan, he thinks of kites hovering overhead in Kabul. “When the Taliban were removed from power, kite flying was a sort of immediate expression of defiance,” Mr Heappey, a former Rifles officer who served two excursions in Afghanistan, instructed The Telegraph. “When we were in Kabul in those early days, it was amazing. It was a visible expression of people having refound the freedom that had been taken away from them.” It is that this freedom that Mr Heappey insists won’t be misplaced when all 10,000 Nato troops, together with 750 British troopers, depart Afghanistan come September 11. Mr Heappey feels assured that there’s “an understanding on the part of the Taliban, that the world, and Afghanistan has moved on and they cannot come back as if time stood still in 2001, that they just pick up where they left off”. Whilst beneath no illusions that during the last twenty years Afghanistan has turn out to be “a sort of liberal democracy”, he mentioned folks had been afforded the flexibility “to live a life of your choosing”. He mentioned: “There was an opportunity to educate your girls, there was an opportunity for women to play a role in society beyond that of mother and wife. I don’t see how that gets washed away, other than by extreme force.” Mr Heappey cautioned that if the Taliban had been to revert to such techniques, the worldwide neighborhood wouldn’t “stand back”. “I think that there has to be a political settlement,” he mentioned. “I think the Taliban know that.” Since troops entered the nation in 2001 to search out Al Qaida’s chief, Osama bin Laden, 2,300 US servicemen and ladies have been killed, together with over 450 British troopers, to not point out the a whole lot of army personnel from different nationalities who perished, in addition to all of these individuals who suffered life altering accidents. More than 60,000 members of the Afghan safety forces have been killed, whereas the variety of civilians who’ve died within the “forever war” is sort of double that. Last week President Biden introduced that the brand new date for all troops to depart Afghanistan can be September 11, versus the unique date of May 1 which was agreed between the previous president, Donald Trump and the Taliban. President Biden mentioned: “We went to Afghanistan because of a horrific attack that happened 20 years ago. That cannot explain why we should remain there in 2021.” However, many have voiced concern {that a} whole withdrawal of international troops will result in civil warfare on the bottom, with Tobias Ellwood, a former Defence Minister, telling The Telegraph “we’ve thrown in the towel”. “Departing Afghanistan in this manner after so much sacrifice will prompt British veterans and the wider public to ask, what was it all for?” Mr Ellwood added: “We now face the very real prospect of a civil war and proxy states, including Russia, Pakistan, India and China, pursuing their own agendas and extremism once again filling the power vacuum.” Mr Heappey insisted that the withdrawal of troops didn’t imply the West had been turning their backs on Afghanistan. “I think that the circumstances in which a return is most obvious is if we get to the point where there’s clear evidence of international terrorism that presents a threat to our homeland, the US homeland or others.” He cautioned that such a return wouldn’t essentially equate to boots on the bottom. “I think what is more probable is that there is significant firepower that you can launch from the outside in, from the air, and that threat remains,” he added. “I don’t think the Taliban gets to assume that the end of a military presence in Afghanistan brings with it free rein for them to do as they wish.” Mr Heappey mentioned that it’s as a lot within the Taliban’s curiosity because the worldwide neighborhood for it to stick to the “international diplomatic expectation”. “There is a financial reality that they want,” he mentioned. “They want Afghanistan to be able to function as a country and the economy, therefore cannot collapse, the International donations, cannot be stopped. “And that brings with it some expectations around behaviour, and if they ignore both of those things there is still the reality that there is the ability to whack them really hard remotely. If that’s what’s required.” Reflecting on the query that has been requested by many, Mr Heappey is reminded of his “crap tour” with The Rifles in 2009 to Sangin, a city in Helmand province, the place they misplaced 35 troopers and greater than 200 wounded. “It was horrible, but for all of the blood and gore, because we were there, the market was busier than it would have otherwise been, the school was open, elections happened during the summer that we were there, and cumulatively over time, we gave space for the Afghan government to establish itself and strengthen.” And in fact, households had been as soon as extra capable of take their kids upto the King’s Tomb in Kabul, a notable spot for kite flying on Friday afternoons, and have interaction in a pastime that had been denied to them for therefore lengthy. “Fast forward 20 years, I bet that people won’t have even remembered not being able to fly kites and that’s a rather simplistic, or trivial example, but it reflects that Afghan society has moved on.”

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