British Conservative MP, Tobias Ellwood, has praised the Taliban government in Afghanistan for “totally transforming” the country, calling for the United Kingdom to establish relations with and recognise the new Afghan authorities.
In an article published by The Telegraph newspaper, Ellwood – MP for Bournemouth East and current chair of the Defence Select Committee – stated that “Two years after the Taliban forced the West to scuttle from Kabul, I’ve just returned from an Afghanistan which is totally transformed,” referring to his recent visit to the country which was sponsored by the mine-clearing charity, The Halo Trust.
“Security has vastly improved, people are free to travel and the widespread corruption that impacted at every level of former President Ashraf Ghani’s government has all but disappeared,” he wrote. “And the dreaded black market opium trade that blighted the nation’s economy has seemingly gone.”
Ellwood acknowledged that war-torn Afghanistan “has not experienced relative peace like this since the 1970s. And it shows. The congested streets are bustling with life as everyone goes about their business – free from the infinite checkpoints and perpetual fear of violence. The Taliban authorities are no more visible than our own police are in London.”
The MP did, however, criticise the Taliban government’s “regressive” ongoing restrictions on women and girls’ education, work and public life, but said that it could potentially be used by the British and other western governments “as a negotiation tool for a shared understanding”.
Ellwood criticised the fact that the “West now holds international aid [from Afghanistan], including the $9 billion in frozen Afghan assets abroad.” He urged Western nations to re-evaluate their position to the new Afghan government, stating that “If the West continues to sulk we could be making another blunder which pushes the nation to a fiscal cliff, potentially igniting another cycle of instability, terrorism and mass migration. A more pragmatic strategy is necessary.”
Ellwood laid out a simple pathway for the UK itself to take in the matter, saying that “The first step is re-opening our embassy. The second is to get real. Afghanistan’s future could be war again or life as a Chinese vassal. The middle way I saw – however queasy we feel about it – needs us to re-think and re-engage.”
Those comments were echoed in a video the MP released on his Twitter account.
Following the article and video, Ellwood has come under significant fire from both the public and his parliamentary peers, with one other MP calling it the spreading of “propaganda for the Taliban” and with reports emerging of him possibly being ousted from his position as Chair of the Defence Select Committee.