The West faces a “growing threat” after the collapse of Afghanistan, the former head of MI5 warned today.
Lord Jonathan Evans said the Taliban’s success will give al Qaeda “more operational space” and a “psychological” boost for other terrorists.
He also criticized the “overly ambitious” goals of the Afghanistan campaign, saying that “significant failure” could have been avoided if the goal was to keep extremism in check.
The harsh assessment came as the UK and US rush to evacuate citizens and local allies from Kabul, with a blame game in full swing for the humiliating outcome.
Lord Evans told BBC Radio 4’s Today program: “I think there are two problems: I think there is more operational space available for groups like Al Qaeda, and there have been reports of Islamic State elements present in Afghanistan.
‘If they have the opportunity to install infrastructure to train and operate, that will pose a threat to the West in general.
There is also the psychological effect of the inspiration that some people will get from the failure of Western power in Afghanistan.
‘That may well create a certain amount of power in the wider grids that still exist in Britain and across the West.
“So I think that in practical terms and in terms of ungoverned space, but also in psychological terms, it probably means an increase in threat in the coming months and years.”
Lord Jonathan Evans said the Taliban’s success will give Al Qaeda “more operational space” and a “psychological” boost for other terrorists.
Taliban fighters patrolled Kabul yesterday as the world reels from collapse
The pair said the West had been “too ambitious” in trying to rebuild Afghanistan rather than focus on quelling the terrorist threat.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today program: “My personal opinion is that we should have focused very narrowly on counterterrorism targets with regard to Afghanistan.
“I think it was very valuable and quite ambitious to think that we could reshape the entire country, whereas the reason we originally entered was for counter-terrorism reasons, and I think that might have been a more achievable task.”
Lord Evans said the ‘ability and perseverance’ necessary to attempt to rebuild the nation was ‘beyond us’ due to political or resource reasons.
He added: “It could have been the case that the Taliban were in power, it could have been possible to have kept a smaller level of purely counterterrorism capacity in the region so that we had the ability to intervene.
“I think from the beginning there was a noble ambition that we could have reshaped the politics of that region and I think that in hindsight that was too ambitious.
“It would have been a great thing to have accomplished, but we raised expectations that we could not move forward and the overall effect of that has been a significant failure and setback for us.”
Theresa May was one of the top MPs who warned during a Commons debate this week that Afghanistan could once again become a “ breeding ground for terrorism, ” the reason for the original invasion in 2001.
Yesterday Ben Wallace gave a similar warning, saying the collapse will “inspire” terrorists and be an “opportunity” for al Qaeda.
The defense secretary said that the Taliban’s takeover of power will be seen as a “victory” by extremists around the world.
And he warned that the West will now have to “prepare” to counter a possible resurgence of the group founded by Osama bin Laden.
Ben Wallace said yesterday that the Taliban’s takeover of power will be seen as a “victory” by extremists around the world.
“All over the world, Islamists will see what they see as a victory. That will inspire other terrorists, ”Wallace told BBC Radio 4’s Today program.
Wallace said that ‘cyber geography’ was now more important than territory, as extremists organize online. He also insisted that he hoped the Taliban were unwilling to host terrorist groups while they tried to rebuild ties with the rest of the world.
But he said: ‘I don’t think anyone has denied that Al Qaeda is potentially going to see this as an opportunity.
‘We will obviously have to prepare, prepare; We already have the capacity to deal with some of that. ‘
Thousands of British citizens and Afghan allies have been trying to leave the country after the government dramatically collapsed and the Taliban took over.
There have been grim scenes of women begging to be let through airport gates, and even reports of babies being stepped over railings by mothers.
UK Ambassador Laurie Bristow, who has stayed in Kabul to process the requests, warned that there could only be ‘days’ left to evacuate people, and that extremists now control all access points.
Around 10,000 Afghan personnel who assisted Western forces over the past year are expected to arrive in the UK.
Theresa May was one of the top MPs who warned during a Commons debate this week that Afghanistan could once again become a “ breeding ground for terrorism. ”