The collapse of Afghanistan’s government happened faster “than even the Taliban predicted”, the prime minister has told MPs, but he denied the UK had been caught “unawares”.
Opening a recalled session of parliament to discuss the crisis in Afghanistan, Boris Johnson claimed it was “not true” to say the UK was “unprepared” for or “did not foresee” events in the south Asian country.
“It was certainly part of our planning,” the PM said.
“The very difficult logistical operation for the withdrawal of UK nationals has been under preparation for many months, and I can tell the House that the decision to commission the emergency handling centre at the airport took place two weeks ago.”
Mr Johnson’s comments come after he told MPs at the start of last month that there was “no military path to victory for the Taliban”.
But the militants swept into Kabul at the weekend after a lightning advance through the country.
The PM also said it was “illusion to believe that there is appetite amongst any of our partners for a continued military presence or for a military solution imposed by NATO in Afghanistan”.
“That idea ended with the combat mission in 2014, and I do not believe … that deploying tens of thousands of British
troops to fight the Taliban is an option,” he added.
Mr Johnson also said the new Taliban regime would be judged based on its actions, not words.
In his statement to MPs, the PM said the “sacrifice” of British troops in Afghanistan was “seared into our national consciousness”.
And Mr Johnson added that the UK would do “everything to support” those who have helped its mission in the country and “do everything we can to avert a humanitarian crisis”.
MPs are taking part in an emergency debate on the situation in the south Asian country.
It comes after the Taliban seized power at the weekend, almost 20 years after the UK and US went into Afghanistan to remove the militant group from power in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and eradicate al Qaeda’s safe haven in the country that it used to launch the 2001 terror attack on the US.