Boris Johnson says no to inquiry into disastrous 20-year Afghanistan war

Soldiers in Afghanistan
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Boris Johnson doesn’t want an inquiry into the 20 year long Afghanistan war. In his withdrawal announcement on Thursday 8 July, he said:

I don’t think that that is the right way forward at this stage.

He added that internal investigations had already taken place and mentioned that the Chilcot Report into Iraq had cost millions.

Johnson had already told the Commons Liaison Committee on Wednesday 7 July that he would not comment until the planned announcement on Thursday. However, he did admit during the hearing that he was concerned about the security situation there.

He told the committee:

We have to be absolutely realistic about the situation that we’re in, and what we have to hope is that the blood and treasure spent by this country over decades in protecting the people of Afghanistan has not been in vain.

Meanwhile, the US withdrew the bulk of its remaining forces on 4 July – US Independence Day – in strange circumstances. AP reported that the military forces based at Bagram Airbase left quietly at night. And they didn’t even tell the local Afghan commander they were going. During the early part of the war, Bagram became notorious as a site of US torture.

Read on...

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Fierce fighting

The suggestion that the UK was ever in the business of protecting Afghans is, of course, contestable. But on the ground, the security situation appears to be spiralling out of control. Reports warn of a quick Taliban advance into new territory and cities.

The western city of Qala-i-Naw was the scene of fierce fighting on 7 July. Taliban forces reportedly captured the local police station before being beaten back by Special Forces.

Neighbouring countries are also concerned. Tajikistan closed its border and mobilised military reserves. Meanwhile Iran hosted talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government. Turkey and Russia also shut consulates in the city of Mazar-i-Sharif in response to Taliban gains locally.


John Chilcot led the last inquiry into a major war; in that case, Iraq. The Chilcot Report was announced in 2009 and was eventually published several years behind schedule in 2016. It was 2.6m words long and made a number of important findings. They included that the military action had not been warranted and that claims about Weapons of Mass Destruction, used to justify the assault, had been made with unjustified confidence.

Then-PM Tony Blair, who also led Britain to war in Afghanistan, faced withering criticism. But the inquiry had no legal powers to bring any of the Iraq War leaders to trial.

It remains to be seen if there will be an inquiry into Afghanistan. But if there is, the 20 year scope of the war is likely to make it even more complex than Chilcot’s investigation into Iraq.

Featured image via EliteForcesUK/Sgt James Elmer.

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  • Show Comments
    1. If there was ever a time for ICC to show they are actually doing their job Boris, Bush,and other leaders responsible for the illegal deaths and mast destructions in this country and others like Iran, Iran, should be charged, jailed or hung .

      1. Funny you mentioned Boris, rather than the most successful Labour leader of all time, Blair, who was one of the key architects of the whole mess. The Labour Party have blood on their hands over Iraq and Afghanistan.

    2. Absolutely agree romi.

      “…Perhaps the most significant commitment was the deployment of a new aircraft carrier group in ‘the Indo-Pacific’, which would be ‘permanently available to Nato’. One of the carriers set out for the South China Sea at the end of May. British politicians were persuaded to spend £7.6 billion on the new vessels, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, despite having too few planes with which to equip them and only one ageing store ship to supply them. The military leadership also pushed for the Royal Navy to form ‘Littoral Strike Groups’ for international interventions. Baroness Goldie clarified in a written answer to Parliament that later this year British patrol vessels will be stationed in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, and there will be a frigate in the area by the end of the decade. The reason given for these deployments is ‘projection of power’ – but whose power? In the 1960s, the US secretary of defence Robert McNamara and the secretary of state Dean Rusk urged their British counterparts to retain British military forces in the Far East. The British ministers were reluctant, given that ‘the empire was no longer there to justify it.’ The current government has no such reluctance.

      It is one thing to station military forces around the world to maintain your empire, but quite another to do so for someone else’s. It’s not a new observation that those in power in Britain have become more culturally militarist as the UK has been shorn of actual global military influence. It’s harder to explain the persistence of imperial lackeydom after Iraq. Part of the reason is a refusal, in most parts of society, to confront the reality of the post-9/11 wars. An aphakic view of the British military’s role in the world persists. The UK remains a country in which the phrase ‘east of Suez’ is used without irony. A country that claims having soldiers in 46 countries is necessary to keep its citizens safe. A country where professing a willingness to use nuclear weapons is considered a precondition for political office. A country that passes legislation to protect itself from prosecution for torture and war crimes (the new Overseas Operations Bill was criticised by the UN special rapporteur on torture as ‘one of the most corrupt ideas the UK has come up with in modern times’). A country that has an undercover domestic police force to spy on and interfere with anti-war activists. It’s not enough to say that British society has learned nothing from the way its distorted view of itself and of its relationship with the US contributed to the horrors of Iraq. After that debacle the UK was a leading advocate for destroying a state and half-heartedly instituting a new regime in Libya. There is no reason to think it won’t happen again.”

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