'Our troops can still be proud' - Lord Dannatt on Afghanistan takeover

Lord Dannatt, left, in Helmand province, Afghanistan in 2007. At the time the general was head of t

Lord Dannatt, left, in Helmand province, Afghanistan in 2007. At the time the general was head of the British Army, and was keen to draw down the number of troops in Iraq so the armed forces could focus on Afghanistan. - Credit: HQUKTF Combat Camera Team

The former head of the British army has called for a public inquiry into the events that led up to the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. 

Lord Richard Dannatt, who lives near Norwich, put the blame for the takeover on the US decision to withdraw all troops from the country this year.

Norfolk peer Lord Dannatt is a member of the House of Lords Select Committee on the Rural Economy. P

Lord Richard Dannatt, former head of the British Army. - Credit: Archant

But Lord Dannatt, who was head of the army from 2006 to 2009, said members of the armed forces from East Anglia and further afield who served in Afghanistan should still be proud of what they achieved

He said: “They can feel proud of their service, professionalism and commitment,
"That particularly applies to the Royal Anglian Regiment, the Queen's Dragoon Guards, the Light Dragoons and the Royal Air Force at RAF Marham. They could have done nothing more and nothing better than what they did.

“Whether the changes in Afghan society they helped bring about have any chance of being sustained will be determined by what the Taliban of 2021 looks like and how they behave.

“We must have a formal public inquiry into what has gone on in Afghanistan over the past 20 years - the strategic planning in London, at Nato, and what lessons can be learned.” 

Lord Dannatt said the key factor that led to the Taliban takeover was the US decision to withdraw 20 years after the al Qaeda attack on the World Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon in Washington DC. 

He said: “The main thing that has happened over the past few months is president Joe Biden deciding rather arbitrarily that by the 20th anniversary of 9/11 all American troops, and in effect all foreign troops, will have left Afghanistan. 

“This undermined the government and undermined the morale of the Afghan security forces, and technical support was also withdrawn. 
“They felt abandoned and the Taliban felt emboldened, which precipitated this very rapid takeover of Afghanistan.”

The speed of the takeover has surprised many people around the world.

As recently as August 6, Lord Dannatt told the BBC he doubted the Taliban would have the ability to retake major Afghan cities, as they were outnumbered by the Afghan security services by two or three to one. 

He said then: "This is now a battle of wills between the Afghan people and the Taliban. And I think the people, properly supported, will prevail."
But Lord Dannatt told this newspaper the Taliban’s advance had not come down to the Taliban's bravery or military ability, but by deal making with local officials, many of whom were trying to “save their own skin”. 

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