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Counter-terrorism strategy will not be enough to counter the Taliban, Tony Blair says

“We need some boots on the ground, naturally our preference is for the boots to be local, but that will not always be possible,” he said.

Blair joined Britain in the US-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the latter of which scarred his legacy when it was revealed that the claim made by him and then-President George W. Bush to justify the Iraq invasion – that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction –was false.

Four Presidents have overseen the Afghanistan war, America’s longest, prompting Joe Biden to see through Donald Trump’s withdrawal deal, saying he would not extend the “forever war” and pass it onto a fifth.

Blair said the phrase “forever war” being used by both Democrats and Republicans was “deeply mistaken.”

“Because we haven’t ended this war, we’ve ended our participation in it,” he said.

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He said the effort to remake Afghanistan had not been a failure despite the Taliban’s swift takeover, saying that although they were now in power, this was not as a result of the will of the Afghan people.

“Our remaking didn’t fail because the people didn’t want the country remade … Afghans did not choose the Taliban takeover.”

He cited a 2019 opinion poll showing that just four per cent of Afghans supported the Taliban.

“They conquered the country by violence not by persuasion,” he said. He added that “free people” would always choose liberal or western values, as the number of women now fleeing Afghanistan showed.

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He strongly hinted that if he were prime minister, he would have lobbied the US President to remain in Afghanistan with a limited presence that kept the Taliban at bay and upheld the democratic government, even though both the government and military fled at the first advance of the Taliban after the US troops left.

Blair said Europe, not the United States, faced the immediate challenges from the fall of Afghanistan through proximity to jihadists and the flow of migrants and that “like it or not,” Britain was part of Europe when it came to these challenges.

He said the relationship between Britain and the continent urgently needed repairing now that the United States had made it clear that they were extremely unlikely to intervene militarily.

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