New Delhi: UK Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat, a former member of the armed forces, Wednesday hit out at US President Joe Biden and the withdrawal of NATO forces from Afghanistan in an impassioned speech to the House of Commons, the lower house of the British Parliament.
“Like many veterans, this last week has seen me struggle through anger, grief and rage —through the feeling of abandonment of not just a country, but the sacrifice that my friends made,” said Tugendhat, whose military career saw him serve in Iraq and Afghanistan before he left the British Army in 2013.
He also expressed disappointment at Biden’s remarks on the Afghanistan military — in a televised address Monday, the US President said the “Afghan military collapsed, sometimes without trying to fight”.
“To see (the US) commander-in-chief call into question the courage of men I fought with, to claim that they ran, is shameful. Those who have never fought for the colours they fly should be careful about criticising those who have,” said Tugendhat.
“So let us stop talking about forever wars. Let us recognise that forever peace is bought, not cheaply, but hard, through determination and the will to endure. The tragedy of Afghanistan is that we are swapping that patient achievement for a second fire and a second war,” he added.
Tugendhat, who chairs the Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, concluded his speech by emphasising the need to help civilians escape the Taliban regime and to take refugees.
Earlier this year, Biden had announced that all American troops in Afghanistan will withdraw from the country by 11 September after 20 years of war. It’s a decision that was set in motion by his predecessor Donald Trump.
The withdrawal has set the stage for the resurgence of the Taliban, who were ousted from power in the country in 2001, and the insurgent group took over the capital city of Kabul Sunday.
“This does not need to be defeat, but at the moment it damn well feels like it,” Tugendhat said of the situation in Afghanistan.
Speech goes viral
The MP delivered his speech during a debate on the situation in Afghanistan, for which the British Parliament was recalled from its summer recess for one day.
Tugendhat’s speech, which received a rousing applause in the Commons (something not usually allowed in the House), also went viral.
“An extraordinary and moving speech from veteran MP Tom Tugendhat, with very harsh words for President Biden on Afghanistan,” said ABC News correspondent James Longman.
An extraordinary and moving speech from veteran MP Tom Tugendhat, with very harsh words for President Biden on Afghanistan
“To see their commander in chief call into question the courage of men I fought with, is shameful.” pic.twitter.com/ZgEEHwD9MI
— James Longman (@JamesAALongman) August 18, 2021
Sebastian Payne, an editor with the Financial Times, called the speech “one of the most electrifying moments” he had seen in the House of Commons.
.@TomTugendhat’s speech in the Afghanistan debate was one of the most electrifying moments I’ve seen in the Commons.
“This last week has been one which has seen me struggle through anger and grief and rage”
Take eight minutes to watch the whole thing https://t.co/pyuLDg3Bf6
— Sebastian Payne (@SebastianEPayne) August 18, 2021
Meanwhile, West Streeting, a Labour Party MP in the UK, called the speech “magnificent and moving”.
Britain is very fortunate to have soldiers like @TomTugendhat and Parliament is very lucky to have his wisdom and experience leading the Foreign Affairs Committee. Magnificent and moving speech during the Afghanistan debate.
— Wes Streeting MP (@wesstreeting) August 18, 2021
(Edited by Rachel John)
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