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Tobias Ellwood resigns as head of UK defence select committee after praising Taliban governance

September 17, 2023 at 9:11 am

Tobias Ellwood on February 02, 2022 in London, England [Leon Neal/Getty Images]

Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood resigned as chair of the UK’s defence select committee this week, succumbing to pressure to leave the position after he praised Afghanistan’s Taliban government back in July.

Ellwood, who had been the head of the committee and cross-party group since 2020, praised the Taliban government in Afghanistan two months ago following his visit to the country, saying that they succeeded in “totally transforming” the country and calling for the UK to establish relations with and recognise the new government.

“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 at the time. “And the dreaded black market opium trade that blighted the nation’s economy has seemingly gone.” He also released a video on X – formerly Twitter – making the same call

It led to a severe backlash by the British press and political figures, including his fellow party members and some colleagues in the defence select committee. Four of the committee members called for a vote of no confidence, with the vote having been expected to take place on Thursday.

The day before that could occur, however, Ellwood announced his resignation as head of the committee, saying in a statement that he made the decision with “deep regret” and was “proud of the hard-hitting inquiries” the group had carried out.

“I believe I have a strong voice when it comes to defence and security”, he stated. “I stand up, speak my mind, try to see the bigger picture and offer solutions, especially on the international stage, as our world turns a dangerous corner.”

Despite his belief that he “retained support of the majority of the committee”, he stressed that without his resignation, the committee’s “dynamic and effectiveness would simply not be the same, and prove a distraction, if all in the room were not supportive of the chair.”

Nominations for Ellwood’s replacement will be restricted to Conservative MPs due to the committee’s chairmanship having been allocated to a member of that party after the 2019 general election, but all MPs will be set to vote on the figure in a secret ballot.

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