IT turns out that the Taliban don’t take holidays. Despite the August weather it seems the extremists who just retook Afghanistan wouldn’t be taking a summer break.
The British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, by contrast, was on holiday in Crete as the 20-year operation in Afghanistan finished in disaster.
Yesterday it turned out that top civil servants at the Foreign Office and Ministry of Defence have also been away on their holidays.
And some of the results can be seen. A crucial call to get Afghan interpreters out was made by a junior minister. While the UK embassy in Kabul was abandoned so hastily that sensitive papers were left all over the floor.
As the last brave and exhausted troops were flying out of Kabul it is tempting to look for a fall-guy.
Who would not want a scapegoat at such a time?
But the truth is that if blame is going to be found it should be in a great many places. Former Prime Minister Tony Blair was back in the news this week, blasting the Americans for a “tragic, dangerous, unnecessary” withdrawal. But it was Mr Blair who took us into Afghanistan in the first place.
The first aim — which was to whack al-Qaeda — was achieved early. It was Blair who oversaw the Afghan mission-creep. And it is thanks to Blair that our troops got stuck in Afghanistan for two decades.
If they could not make an Afghan army or government in 20 years how long should they have been there?
Would half a century be a good round number?
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And that is before you start to look for where to lay the blame in the US. You could blame four successive US presidents for overseeing the endless drain of money and blood.
Or you could look at an entire generation of US military leaders. After all, what happened to those tens of billions of dollars poured into the Afghan army?
Sure, there were many brave Afghan soldiers, but US top brass should have known the Afghan army would not be able to stand on its own.
Only last month US chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark Milley, was assuring President Biden the Afghan military was fit for purpose. As a result, Biden continued to push through his withdrawal despite the warning signs.
What were the US intelligence agencies saying and doing through all this time? What advice were the CIA, NSA (America’s National Security Agency) and others giving to the President? And how did they either get ignored or get everything so very wrong?
Just how wrong can be seen from a devastating fact. British representatives just left behind sensitive papers. The US left behind some of the world’s most dangerous weaponry — including equipment supplied to Afghan forces.
So surprised was the US by the speed of the Taliban advance that it didn’t even have time to take out its heavy weapons. As a result they just left behind an arsenal in the hands of the Taliban. Thanks to this oversight the Taliban now have hundreds of helicopters, including 33 BlackHawks and 33 Mi-17s. Indeed, because of America’s bungling the Taliban now has more attack helicopters than the UK.
It has also got thousands of trucks, more than 20,000 Humvees, hundreds of tanks, almost half a million rifles and pistols, 64,000 machine guns and hundreds of artillery pieces.
The hasty US withdrawal means the Taliban is now one of the most well-armed forces on the planet.
In fact they are now better armed than almost every country in Nato that sent troops into Afghanistan.
This is a blunder of historic, epic proportions.
Biden could still make up for some of this by destroying the Taliban’s new capability from the air.
But don’t bet on that happening.
Nothing else sensible has happened over recent weeks.
Yes, some of our officials could have performed better. But we shouldn’t fool ourselves.
The way the Afghan operation has finished is a colossal, massive, generational screw-up.
So let’s level blame, certainly. But if we do we should do it far and wide.
‘Overwhelming good in the world’
SOME of Britain’s leading history wonks have come together to form a group called ‘History Reclaimed’.
Their aim is to address the ‘distortions’ they see being pushed out about our history. They are completely right.
For years now British history has been turned from a story of heroism to one of shame. Marxists and other radicals have tried to use our past against us. By rewriting it.
This is wrong. All countries have good bits and bad bits. But Britain has been a force for overwhelming good in the world. We shouldn’t ignore the bad bits.
But we also shouldn’t ignore the many more good bits.