GROUPS seeking to attack Western countries will feel “emboldened” by the situation in Afghanistan, a former UK intelligence service chief has said.
Robert Hannigan, who was director of GCHQ, issued a stark warning this afternoon about the growing tensions in the country.
He said: “We’re now going to be working with a – essentially – a hostile power and that will make knowing what’s going on there more difficult than ever.”
He added: “I think generally across the world, groups that want to attack the United States or the west will feel emboldened by this.
“We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that the United States remains the world’s greatest superpower, the greatest military in the world, and President Biden has said America is back, but frankly the pictures we’re seeing rather undermine that at the moment and I think that will be fodder for terrorist groups who want to see the humiliation of the United States, even if it’s short-term and it passes.”
Former Cabinet minister Lord Philip Hammond said the situation was a “terrible failure of Western strategy” warning of a “humanitarian crisis but no doubt in time a counter-terrorism crisis for the West”.
The former defence and foreign secretary, and Chancellor told the BBC: “It feels to me that for the last few years we have managed to keep the lid on the situation in Afghanistan…
“We did that collectively with, in the latter years, really rather small numbers of troops and rather modest commitment of military resources and I think it is a bit of an indictment of the direction of Western policy and our lack of ability to see our own medium and longer-term self-interest that we’ve withdrawn that rather modest support at American instigation, and the result has been this.
“Not just a humanitarian crisis but no doubt in time a counter-terrorism crisis for the West. This is essentially a policy that has been made in the US.”
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres convened an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council this afternoon, where he said Afghan women and girls feared a “return to the darkest days”.
He said the council had received “chilling reports of severe restrictions on human rights” in the country, and urged the Taliban to uphold the human rights of the population, particularly women and girls.
He said: “I am particularly concerned by accounts of mounting human rights violations against the women and girls of Afghanistan, who fear a return to the darkest days.
“The international community must unite to make sure that Afghanistan is never again used as a platform or safe haven for terrorist organisations.”
He added: “Afghans are a proud people with a rich cultural heritage. They have known generations of war and hardship. They deserve our full support.
“The following days will be pivotal; the world is watching. We cannot and must not abandon the people of Afghanistan.”
The Afghan representative told the UN security council that citizens of Kabul were “living in absolute fear” and urged the international community to take action.
Ghulam M Isaczai said: “Today I’m speaking on behalf of millions of people in Afghanistan, whose fate hangs in the balance and are faced with an extremely uncertain future.
“I’m speaking for millions of Afghan girls and women who are about to lose their freedom to go to school, to work, and to participate in the political, economic, and social life of the country.
“I’m speaking for thousands of human rights defenders, journalists, academics, civil servants and former security personnel whose lives are at risk for defending human rights and democracy.
“I’m speaking for thousands of internally displaced people who are desperately in need of shelter, food and protection in Kabul and other places.”
He added: “We’re extremely concerned about Taliban’s not honouring the promises and commitments made in their statements at Doha, and other international fora.
“We’ve witnessed time and again how Taliban have broken their promises and commitments in the past. We have seen gruesome images of Taliban mass executions of military personnel and target killings of civilians in Kandahar and other big cities.
“We cannot allow this to happen in Kabul, which has been the last refuge for many people escaping violence and Taliban’s revenge attacks.”
Mr Isaczai called on the UN to put pressure on the Taliban “to prevent further violence, prevent Afghanistan descending into a civil war and becoming a pariah state”.
He added: “Kabul residents are living in absolute fear right now.”