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Afghan failure shows it’s time to retire ‘Global Britain’ says Welsh MP who voted against the war

05 Sep 2021 4 minutes Read
British soldiers patrol through a wheat field in Yakchal, Afghanistan. Photographer: Cpl Daniel Wiepen. © Crown Copyright 2014 (CC 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/defenceimages/14784267540

One of only four MPs who voted against the war in Afghanistan who remain in Westminster has said that the withdrawal shows that it’s “time to retire the toxic pretentions of ‘Global Britain’”.

Writing in the Welsh edition of the Sunday Times, Hywel Williams said that despite the campaign being a “disaster” for the west, there has been little reflection on the decision to go to war in the first place.

The Plaid Cymru MP is among only four of those 17 MPs who voted against the war in Afghanistan who remain in Parliament today. He added that Plaid Cymru was the only major party to oppose the war in Afghanistan from the very start.

The party warned at the time that a “lack of a clearly defined purpose for the campaign and hazy overarching aims, without an exit as well as an entry strategy, would lead to long term entanglement,” he said.

“It seems a pathetic understatement to say that this is a defeat and indeed a disaster for the west,” said Hywel Williams.

“Its tenets, its strategy and tactics for imposing its policies and have been proved to be a failure. Furthermore, supposedly overwhelming military might, and roughly transplanted forms of democracy have proved to be insufficient.

“This debacle is as significant for the West as the Suez crisis was for the UK, only on a much larger scale. Suez marked the end of one middling country’s imperial delusions and the beginning of less overt, though no less toxic, forms of colonialism.

“But the Afghan defeat has stopped the leading superpower in its tracks. Its up-and-coming rivals will not be slow in filling the vacuum.”

Hywel Williams said that when Plaid Cymru announced their decision to oppose the war on humanitarian grounds, they were “described as appeasers”.

“We were told that military action was essential to defeat the terrorist threat, despite a lack of clear war aims or any explanation of how carpet bombing, drone attacks, special forces actions and eventual invasion would lead to peace,” he said.

‘Exit strategy’

British and American forces withdrew from the country at the end of August.

The Taliban captured all major cities in a matter of days. They now claim to have taken Afghanistan’s last remaining province Panjshir in the north east of the country, despite rebel resistance.

Hywel Williams said that Plaid Cymru’s Parliamentary leader in 2001, Elfyn Llwyd, had questioned both the military objectives of the campaign and the tactics used from the very start.

“We said from the outset that the lack of a clearly defined purpose for the campaign and hazy overarching aims, without an exit as well as an entry strategy, would lead to long term entanglement,” he said.

“And so it proved to be. Adam Price, now leader of Plaid Cymru said in 2007 that, ‘because of our involvement in the invasion of 2001, we are part of the problem, not the solution’.

“We called for an exit strategy that comprised of withdrawing British and American troops, replacing them with an international force made up of troops from countries not compromised by involvement in the invasion.

“He warned that continued military action by Britain and America gave the Taliban a propaganda platform that could never lead to a peaceful conclusion.”

He concludes: “Joe Biden does now say that the era of ‘major military operations to remake other countries’ is over. Those many countries who host American and other allied forces might well be sceptical.

“For the UK, it is high time to rethink its foreign policy, how it uses its military might and how it secures domestic democratic political consent for action. Suez was 65 years ago. It is time to retire the toxic pretentions of a ‘Global Britain’ ruling far off waves, skies, and lands.”

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Aled Griffiths
Aled Griffiths
2 months ago

Excellently and insightful article, a pity that similar discourse will never occur on the BBC which regrettably and surprisingly has become an apologist and spokesman for the Tory Party.

Michael Rieveley
Michael Rieveley
2 months ago

I congratulate my MP on his steadfast refusal to bow down to the mob mentality that infects many politicians, the media and many others, when the prospect of engaging military power.
Despite the self evident futility of these actions and the fact that, as we have seen in Afghanistan yet again, end in humiliating failure, it seems for the overwhelming majority a blinding machismo overwhelms judgement and common sense.

j humphrys
j humphrys
2 months ago

Agree.
But, anyone else annoyed to see soldiers yomping through a hungry country’s crops?

Steve Duggan
Steve Duggan
2 months ago

The Afghan war was always going to be an up hill struggle – history has told us that. Unfortunately, the UK gov. – in particular the current lot – are still living in the 19th century. ‘Brexit’ and ‘Global Britain’ are just the thoughts of the deluded – the Empire is no more. Soon the UK will be no more too.

hdavies15
hdavies15
2 months ago
Reply to  Steve Duggan

Even during the Victorian height of Empire they were walloped by the Afghans. Although the tribes squabbled they tended to unite and get very hostile to any attempt by foreign forces to occupy their turf.

hdavies15
hdavies15
2 months ago

Hywel said “….despite the campaign being a “disaster” for the west, there has been little reflection on the decision to go to war in the first place.” And that is at the heart of the matter. Bullying powers with Bliar’s UK in their front ranks thought they could just wade in and impose their vision. So well embedded over 19 years it got blown away in about 19 days !

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