2 types of terror threat which will emerge from Afghanistan debacle, according to ex-MI5 chief

·Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
·3 min read
Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid (L) attends the first press conference in Kabul on August 17, 2021, following their stunning takeover of Afghanistan. (Photo by Hoshang HASHIMI / AFP) (Photo by HOSHANG HASHIMI/AFP via Getty Images)
Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid leads a press conference in Kabul earlier this week following its seizure of Afghanistan. (AFP via Getty Images)

Former MI5 chief Lord Jonathan Evans has said it is inevitable an increased terrorism threat will emerge from the Afghanistan debacle.

Lord Evans, who was director-general of the national security agency between 2007 and 2013, said the threat will emerge “over the coming months and years” following the Taliban’s seizure of the country.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today show this threat will come in two forms.

1. ‘Operating space’ for terror groups

Under the Taliban, he said, “I think there is more operating space more likely to be available to groups like al Qaida, and there have been reports of Islamic State elements present in Afghanistan.

“If they get the opportunity to put down infrastructure to train and to operate, then that will pose a threat to the West more widely.”

Watch: Friday's politics briefing

2. ‘Psychological inspiration’ from Western failure

Following the high-profile criticism of Western countries such as the US and UK over their role in the fall of Afghanistan, Lord Evans added: “There’s also the psychological effect of the inspiration that some people will draw from the failure of Western power in Afghanistan.

“That may well create a certain amount of energy in the wider networks that are still in existence in Britain and across the West.

“So, I think, in practical terms and in terms of ungoverned space, but also in psychological terms, it probably does mean an increase in threat over the coming months and years.”

Lord Evans, meanwhile, said the UK and its allies' "over-ambitious" attempts to rebuild Afghanistan, rather than focusing on counter-terrorism, is ultimately what caused the “significant failure and setback” seen this month as the Taliban took control.

“My own personal view is that we should have focused very narrowly on counter-terrorism objectives in regard to Afghanistan.

“I think it was very worthy – and rather ambitious – to think we could reshape the whole country whereas the reason we went in originally was for counter-terrorism reasons, and I think that might have been a more achievable task.

“I think right from the beginning there was a noble ambition that we would have been able to reshape the politics of that region and I think, in retrospect, that was over-ambitious."

It comes as Dominic Raab faces mounting pressure to resign after it emerged a phone call requested by his officials to help interpreters flee Afghanistan was not made.

Foreign Secratary Dominic Raab arrives at the Foreign Office in Westminster, London, as he faces mounting pressure to resign after it emerged a phone call requested by his officials to help interpreters flee Afghanistan was not made. Picture date: Friday August 20, 2021. (Photo by Dominic Lipinski/PA Images via Getty Images)
Dominic Raab arrives at the Foreign Office in Westminster on Friday. (Dominic Lipinski/PA Images via Getty Images)

The foreign secretary was reportedly “unavailable” when officials in his department suggested he “urgently” call Afghan foreign minister Hanif Atmar on 13 August – two days before the Taliban marched on Kabul – to arrange help for those who supported British troops.

It was initially reported the Afghan Foreign Ministry refused to arrange a call with a junior minister, pushing it back to the next day.

But a UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office spokesperson later said: “Given the rapidly changing situation, it was not possible to arrange a call before the Afghan government collapsed.”

Read more:

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Raab was holidaying on the Greek island of Crete and said to be staying at the five-star “luxury” Amirandes Hotel when the request for the call was made.

Earlier this week, Raab angrily clashed with Sir Keir Starmer in the House of Commons after the Labour leader questioned his holiday "while Kabul was falling".

Watch: Armed forces minister defends under-pressure Raab

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