Sending troops to Afghanistan to assist evacuation is 'sign of failure'

Credit: AP

Sending troops into Afghanistan “to keep the door open as you leave is a sure sign of failure”, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee has said.

Both the UK and the United States said on Thursday that they would deploy troops to Afghanistan to support their diplomatic presence, help their citizens leaving the country and support the relocation of former Afghan staff, as the Taliban continue to make gains.

The UK said it would deploy 600 troops on a short-term basis, while the US has vowed to send 3,000 of its own to Afghanistan.

On Friday morning, it was confirmed by Afghan officials the insurgents had captured Lashkar Gah, the capital of the southern Helmand province.

The USA's withdrawal from the country is not yet complete, with September 11 set as the date for a complete exit, but already the Taliban has control in Afghanistan's second and third largest cities Kandahar and Herat.

Retweeting news of the American deployment, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, Conservative Tom Tugendhat MP, said: "A hasty exit is not a sign of success. Needing reinforcements to keep the door open as you leave is a sure sign of failure."

Mr Tugendhat, who has been vocal critic of the troop withdrawal, spoke of his own time serving with the armed forces in Afghanistan, and said "the decision to withdraw is like a rug pulled from under the feet of our partners".

And the chairman on the Defence Select Committee, Conservative Tobias Ellwood MP, said on Twitter: "What would Churchill say? This is NOT our finest hour. What happened to GLOBAL BRITAIN and AMERICA IS BACK?

"The largest high tech military alliance ever – defeated by an insurgency armed with mines, RPGs and AK47s. We can and must do better."

Speaking of the UK troop deployment and efforts to aid British citizens and others leaving the country, Lord Richards, a former chief of defence staff, told BBC’s Newsnight: "I think they will be doing what we call a non-combatant evacuation operation.

"They will hold the ring for as long as they can and then get out along with the people they have helped."

He added: "It is a tacit – explicit really – admission of failure. Of a gross, a dismal failure of geostrategy and of statecraft.

"I had hoped that we would hear from the Government an explanation for why we are in this position, and then an explanation for how they are going to avert this disaster.

"And all we have heard tonight is an admission of failure and a desire to pull people out."

He added: "I’m almost ashamed that we are in this position."

ITV News Global Security Editor Rohit Kachroo hears from an Afghan video journalist who says the American pull-out has left his people 'with nothing'

Announcing the troop deployment, the Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: "I have authorised the deployment of additional military personnel to support the diplomatic presence in Kabul, assist British nationals to leave the country and support the relocation of former Afghan staff who risked their lives serving alongside us.

"The security of British nationals, British military personnel and former Afghan staff is our first priority. We must do everything we can to ensure their safety."

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the United States would send one Army and two Marine infantry battalions to enter Afghanistan within the next two days to assist at the Kabul airport with the partial embassy evacuation.

The troops will support American personnel and facilitate the departure of Afghans who qualify for a special visa scheme.

Afghan children at a camp for the internally displaced in the city of Kandahar (Credit: Unicef)

Mr Kirby said: "We believe that this is the prudent thing to do given the rapidly deteriorating security situation in and around Kabul."

Mr Kirby said the plan is still to complete the drawdown in Afghanistan by the end of the month.

Earlier General Sir Nick Carter, the head of the British armed forces, said Afghanistan was already facing a "humanitarian tragedy" as the Taliban continued to make sweeping gains.

He suggested the best the government of President Ashraf Ghani could hope for was to achieve a "military stalemate" which would enable it to negotiate a political compromise with the militants.

ITV News Global Security Editor Rohit Kachroo explains how the Taliban continue to gain more control over Afghanistan

But despite the recent setbacks – with warnings the capital Kabul could fall within weeks – Gen Carter said he believed the government forces were still capable of holding on to "those bits of the country that really matter".

Former military commander Lord Dannatt called on the UK to continue its support of Afghanistan’s government and people despite the withdrawal of foreign forces.

He wrote in The Sun the government should "reverse the cuts in our foreign aid" to the country, adding such a move would “be a major boost”.

"The Americans may have cut and run – but the UK must do better than that," Lord Dannatt said.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press reports Canadian special forces will deployed to Kabul to help evacuate embassy staff before it is closed.