I suspect that Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour Party's current leader, will not be pleased by Tony Blair's belligerent entry into the debate on the withdrawal from Afghanistan. It is a stark reminder that it was the Labour Party, with Blair obsequiously coat-tailing of the American President, that got us involved in this debacle in the first place.
In response to the devastating attacks on the US on 11th September 2001 President Bush declared a "war on terror" and chose Afghanistan as the enemy. Tony Blair dutifully supported the move, but it was the wrong move.
The attack on the Twin Towers was an horrendous, evil, terrifying and criminal act, and that is how it should have been countered: by police action.
The police could have been international, preferably directed by the UN, probably armed, preferably involving participants from the countries surrounding Afghanistan (where the terrorists might have been hiding). The US contingent could have played a leading role, but with international authority.
Such a police investigation would first of all try to track down the criminals responsible for the atrocity, along with others "aiding and abetting" the crime (which may or may not have involved the then government of Afghanistan, the Taliban) and, having identified them, brought them to trial and justice.
Instead the "war" has cost the lives of over 100 000 Afghanistan civilians, including countless children, 70 000 members of the Afghanistan security forces, almost 2 500 US soldiers (and 2 000 injured) and almost 500 UK soldiers. (For precise details see here.)
And the Taliban are now in as strong, if not stronger, position than they were in 2001.
The much maligned Jeremy Corbyn failed to follow Blair's lead and voted against our participation in the War. I suspect all the Tory MPs voted for it. I'm not sure about the Liberal Democrats. Whether we did or not, we learned our lesson and Liberal Democrat MPs, under Charles Kennedy's leadership, unanimously voted against our participation in the Iraq war which followed two years later, and with similar disastrous consequences.
It is sad that in neither conflict did the British army cover themselves in glory. We went in claiming to be the "best little army in the world," but had to be rescued by the Americans from both Basra (Iraq) and Helmand (Afghanistan.) For a meticulously detailed account see Simon Akam's excellent book, "The Changing of the Guard."
The speed of the Taliban's recapture of the country has apparently taken everyone by surprise. So what is the real value of our much vaunted "intelligence" services. Or were they just not listened to?
The Afghan Army is accused of cowardice for caving in so easily, but it seems to me they have acted very sensibly. The almost universal predictions before the event were that the Taliban would retake control of the country in about 90 days. So, if the Taliban were expected to win anyway, why should the Afghani soldiers shed their blood in a doomed attempt simply to delay them. Much more sensible to pack up and go home.
President Biden's ordering of a somewhat abrupt departure is curious. He is an exceptionally experienced politician and it is hard to understand why he should precipitate chaos. Maybe he felt that to sanction a slower and more orderly departure would simply lead, as so often before, to "just one more heave" to achieve nation-wide pacification.
Better to quit quickly and decisively. I look forward to the judgement of history.
In the meantime what can civilised countries do?
For one thing, answer the telephone.
For another, welcome unconditionally all Afghan and others involved to settle on our shores. Yes, we shall get a few bad eggs but bureaucratic delays to sort out the deserving from the undeserving would simply add to the misery we have helped to create.
For the future we must develop the concept of an international police force to deal with future atrocities, and end the the assumption that the rich and powerful can lumber around the world to impose their will, however affronted they may feel.
Post script (added 24th August).
It is well worth reading this article written by Labour MP Zarah Sultana: