Tony Blair Says 'Imbecilic' Afghanistan Withdrawal Has 'Every Jihadist Group Cheering'

Tony Blair, the former British prime minister who sent U.K. troops to Afghanistan after 9/11, called President Joe Biden's decision to withdraw from the country "imbecilic" and warned that it has "every Jihadist group around the world cheering."

Blair, who led the U.K. from 1997 to 2007, said in an essay published Saturday that the decision to pull out troops and leave Afghanistan vulnerable to a rapid Taliban takeover was driven by politics, and risks undermining positive achievements made over the past two decades.

"The abandonment of Afghanistan and its people is tragic, dangerous, unnecessary, not in their interests and not in ours," Blair wrote in an essay published to his website. "The world is now uncertain of where the West stands because it is so obvious that the decision to withdraw from Afghanistan in this way was driven not by grand strategy but by politics," he added.

Blair then criticized Biden for being "in obedience to an imbecilic political slogan about ending 'the forever wars,'" adding that, "as if our engagement in 2021 was remotely comparable to our commitment 20 or even 10 years ago."

Tony Blair
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair slammed the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan as "imbecilic" and said the decision has left "every Jihadist group around the world cheering." Here, Blair is see leaving the BBC in central London on June 6, 2021. TOLGA AKMEN/AFP/Getty Images

The former Labour Party leader continued to say that the current situation in Afghanistan will advance the efforts of jihadist groups and help China, Russia and Iran gain influence. He urged the West to put "maximum pressure" on the Taliban, and draft a list of incentives, sanctions and actions that are both "credible and realistic."

Blair also said that Britain and the U.S. have a "moral obligation" to stay in Afghanistan until everyone who needs to be evacuated is safely taken out.

"We must evacuate and give sanctuary to those to whom we have responsibility — those Afghans who helped us and stood by us and have a right to demand we stand by them," he said. "There must be no repetition of arbitrary deadlines. We have a moral obligation to keep at it until all those who need to be are evacuated. And we should do so not grudgingly but out of a deep sense of humanity and responsibility."

Blair's essay comes as the U.K. and U.S. are both rushing to evacuate their citizens as well as Afghan allies after Afghanistan fell to the Taliban last weekend.

On Sunday, the U.S. Defense Department activated the Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) for only the third time in history, calling upon commercial airlines to be prepare to assist in evacuation efforts. American Airlines, Atlas Air, Delta Airlines, Omni Air, Hawaiian Airlines and United Airlines will provide a total of 18 aircraft to support the evacuation of U.S. citizens and personnel, the department said in a statement.

Biden said his deadline for completing a full withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan is August 31. However, he told ABC News this week that the deadline could be extended if there are still Americans in the country at that point. It is unclear how many Americans are still in Afghanistan, though the president said earlier this week that the number was somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000.

Along with the 4,000 or so U.K. citizens in Afghanistan, there are reported to be around 5,000 Afghan allies, including translators and drivers, according to the Associated Press. The Ministry of Defense said Sunday that nearly 4,000 people had been evacuated so far.

Newsweek contacted the White House for additional comment, but did not hear back in time for publication.