MPs and veterans join growing call for inquiry into Afghanistan

The reputation of the West to support democracies across the world has suffered, says Tobias Ellwood MP.

The government is facing increasingly growing calls to launch an inquiry into the UK’s actions in Afghanistan this week, after the Taliban seized control of the country.

Speaking at the Commons debate on Wednesday, both former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood urged Boris Johnson to open an inquiry.

Ellwood said that there were so many lessons to be learned front he last 20 years, adding: “The reputation of the West to support democracies across the world has suffered.”

But Johnson appeared to rule out an inquiry, saying that he believed “most of the key questions have already been extensively got into.”

He added that an extensive defence review had been carried out after the combat mission ended in 2014.

Corbyn and Ellwood are not the only people calling for a formal investigation.

On BBC Question Time on Wednesday, an Afghanistan veteran also echoed the call, saying that the generals responsible for British loss need to be held accountable.

She said: “The only way I can not be utterly embarrassed and humiliated about my service is if we, a democratic nation, hold those responsible for this to account and have a full parliamentary inquiry, which Boris Johnson is trying to weasel out of having, trying to pretend we don’t need one.

“This would hold those responsible both for the political decisions but also those in the military hierarchy who are responsible for strategic and operational decisions which have left to failure.”

The former soldier said an inquiry was the only way to prevent a future generation undergoing the same process in another nation.

Responding on the programme, Foreign office minister James Cleverly said: “We will of course need to look into all the phases around this investigation.

“There’s been an inquiry into the rationale around the original deployment – that mid-term mission shift from the submission of terrorism through to the capacity-building of institutions in Afghanistan and what’s happened most recently in terms of our military support will of course be looked at.”

Former Tory MP Dominic Grieve has said that an inquiry would be a “useful exercise”.

He told The Guardian: “The prime minister is on record as saying there has been no intelligence failure. He says we knew this was a possibility, even if the rapidity of collapse was quicker than anticipated. 

“Therefore for the ISC to independently confirm the prime minister is correct about this and how this was factored into the decision-making of government would be very interesting to know about.”

Grieve admitted that there may be issues around publishing an inquiry by the ISC due to security reasons.

He added: “But that doesn’t mean the work isn’t worth doing, because even if it can’t publish its findings, it may well be able to publish enough – or it might be in a position to say that the intelligence was correct and the government took a decision to act based on that, or there were serious failings.

“Clearly, defence, intelligence and the work of MI6 is within its remit. Therefore when the Afghanistan operation is over, we can review if there were serious failings of intelligence, or whether these were known but the government simply had to accept them because the US had shifted and gone.”

Alexandra Warren is a freelance journalist.

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