After 20 years, 456 UK military deaths and £22 billion spent, Britain's involvement in Afghanistan is over. With the last American forces leaving within a month, news out of the war-torn nation has been predictably grim, with the Taliban sweeping the country amid reports of executions, evacuations and troops switching sides.
The situation is now so dire that Boris Johnson has been forced to chair an emergency Cobra meeting this afternoon. British troops went into the country in October 2001 – four months after Johnson was first elected as an MP for Henley – with the subsequent two decades of fighting attracting much comment from the future Prime Minister during his rise from a backbencher and commentator to a minister climbing the greasy pole.
Here Steerpike provides you with some of Johnson's past musings on Britain's role in Afghanistan and what withdrawal would mean...
‘To abandon Afghanistan now would be a betrayal of the fallen' – the Daily Telegraph, 9 November 2009:
‘But what is the alternative? The answer is that the alternative is even grimmer. I have an Afghan sister-in-law, and she remembers the chaos and the carnage when the Russians finally pulled out in 1989. She doesn't want the Taliban to take over the entire country, as they did before. She doesn't want Afghanistan to become a giant version of the Taliban mini-state of Waziristan. Are we really going to follow the advice of the Independent on Sunday, haul up the white flag, bring our troops home, and consign Afghanistan to a bunch of thugs and religious maniacs?’
'It’s poppycock to grow crops here but destroy them in Afghanistan' – the Daily Telegraph, 13 July 2009:
‘Be in no doubt that what British troops are doing in Helmand is heroic, and it is very far from futile. If Nato forces pulled out, the Taliban would probably overrun Kabul in three weeks, with catastrophic consequences for Pakistan and for global stability. That is why we need them there, and that is why they deserve to be properly armed and protected.’
Debate on 'Global Britain', House of Commons, 26 June 2018:
'As the House may know, the National Security Council is about to consider a substantial uplift in our engagement in Afghanistan? It is a timely moment to assess the worthwhile aspects of that offer. I believe the UK has contributed massively to modern Afghanistan… We have much to be proud of in our engagement with Afghanistan.’
‘If the neocon project means democracy throughout the Middle East, and Starbucks, and women being able to drive, then I am an ardent neocon. Just don’t call it war.’
'Britain can lead the global war against Islamist terror' – the Daily Telegraph, 7 December 2017:
‘We cannot create some Maginot line in the Mediterranean. We cannot just encase the whole of the Middle East and North Africa in a concrete jacket and give them 50 years to sort themselves out. The problems will get worse, not just for the Muslim countries who are in the frontline of the struggle but for us in Western Europe.’