Former soldier’s Afghanistan warning: ‘Biggest hostage crisis’ for decades

A former British soldier turned MP who served in Afghanistan says the Taliban cannot be trusted and warns "of the biggest hostage crisis the West has seen in decades", amid growing calls for humanitarian support.

In an interview with 9News, Tom Tugendhat, chair of the UK Parliament's powerful Foreign Affairs Committee, criticised the handling of the withdrawal, lashing his own government for the "worst foreign policy mistake for the United Kingdom since Suez", and saying "for the United States this is potentially worse than Saigon."

Mr Tugendhat questioned remarks by US President Joe Biden defending the chaotic withdrawal, and the intelligence behind the US-led withdrawal.

EXPLAINER: Who are the Taliban and how did they take control of Afghanistan so swiftly?

"He (Mr Biden) sort of said it was both predicted but unpredictable," the Tory Member for Tonbridge and Malling said.

"Well if it was predicted, why is there this horrid humanitarian disaster? If it wasn't, why not?

"I haven't got access to secret intelligence as part of a public committee but I've read about it. I've spoken to people.

"It's all been predicted for many years. I'm not sure why he was surprised when no one else was.

The Taliban are seeking to convince a wary population they have changed, declaring a so-called "amnesty" and urging women to serve in their government.

But as pictures of Afghans being shot at at Kabul's Airport, supposedly by Taliban members, went viral, Mr Tugendhat accused the group of carrying out "revenge killings".

"This is a group that is even now conducting revenge killings in Lashkar Gah and Kandahar that they promised they wouldn't do," he said.

"They're doing it, they're literally doing it as we speak, and at the same time their spokesman is saying they won't do it. They're lying, they're lying and lying.

Mr Tugendhat once served as an adviser to the Governor of Helmand Province.

"I've been speaking to friends in (Helmand Province) Lashkar Gah. The idea you could get somebody out of Lashkar Gah today is absurd," he said.

"There's 10 checkpoints before you get to the highway and the highway has got checkpoints all the way to Kabul. You're just not going to make it."

READ MORE: Taliban urge women to join government as thousands seek to flee

'It's heartbreaking, it's completely heartbreaking'

When he was a soldier, Mr Tugendhat served alongside Australian Troops at Tarin Kowt, and has long had praise for his military friends from the other side of the world.

"Australia's contribution in (the) combat period was extremely important," he said.

"I would not diminish for a moment (the) courage or determination of Australian forces or indeed the Australian government in carrying their share of the burden they were absolutely there on the front line, front and centre.

"To watch this, it reopens so many old wounds and has left a lot of us feeling particularly raw at the way we're treating our friends and partners.

"It's heartbreaking, it's completely heartbreaking."

Australia and allies including the UK have tried to rescue their own citizens as well as Afghan interpreters who aided the military efforts during the long-running war.

During his time as an adviser to the Governor of Helmand Province Mr Tugendhat was twice attacked by suicide bombers.

In one instance he says his interpreter was the first to check on him.

A British Army Officer walking towards British Army and Afghan National Civil Police (ANCOP) Observation Points in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. (Ben Birchall/PA Wire)

'I think it was right to go into Afghanistan'

An emotional Mr Tugendhat said the issue was personal because "I lost friends here".

"I can point to the graves from Poole to Arbroath that I stood by as my friends were lowered into them for this," he said.

"I can give you the names, show you the photographs of Afghan soldiers I served with, people in the governor's office who rescued me when I was attacked by suicide bombers.

"I can list friends — it's heartbreaking it's — I don't know what to say, it's heartbreaking".

He warned the conflict in Afghanistan revealed a need for the West to "re-energise" alliances.

"We can't have a single partner taking a decision that affects all of us without consulting as we've just seen in Afghanistan. It leads to confusion and humanitarian disasters," he said.

Asked if the 20-year war that claimed the lives of thousands of allied soldiers, including 41 Australians, was worth it, Mr Tugendhat paused, before saying "that's more a question for parents and spouses? Maybe it will never be worth it for them."

"I think it is right to stand up for our principles. I think it's right to defend British people and right to stand with our allies.

"I think it was right to go into Afghanistan in 2001. We tried to do our best."

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