Tory MP and Afghanistan veteran applauded by Commons as he insists 'this doesn't need to be defeat'

A Conservative MP who served in Afghanistan was applauded by the Commons after insisting the crisis in Afghanistan “doesn’t need to be defeat”.

Tom Tugendhat told MPs that he, like many veterans, was now struggling “through anger, grief and rage" over the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan following the withdrawal of the US and UK.

Delivering an emotional speech in an emergency Commons debate on Wednesday, the Tonbridge and Malling MP explained the crisis had "torn open" old wounds and "left them raw".

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Tom Tugendhat speaking during the debate on the situation in Afghanistan in the House of Commons
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He was also among several MPs to criticise US president Joe Biden and predecessor Donald Trump for their decision to withdraw US forces from Afghanistan.

Addressing a silent Commons, Mr Tugendhat said he had previously watched “good men go into the earth, taking with them a part of me and a part of all of us”.

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He said: “To see their commander-in-chief [President Joe Biden] call into the question the courage of men I fought with, to claim that they ran is shameful.

“Those who have not fought for the colours they fly should be careful about criticising those who have.”

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Mr Tugendhat suggested the West and the UK had not shown patience, adding: “This is a harsh lesson for all of us and if we’re not careful it could be a very, very difficult lesson for our allies.

“It doesn’t need to be.

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“We can set out a vision, clearly articulate it, for reinvigorating our European Nato partners, to make sure that we are not dependent on a single ally, on the decision of a single leader, that we can work together with Japan and Australia, France and Germany, with partners large and small and make sure we hold the line together.”

The Tory MP ended by recalling his time as an adviser to the governor of Helmand and the “joy” given to families by the opening of schools for girls.

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He left MPs with a second, “harder” image, warning: “It’s one that the forever war that has just reignited could lead to.

“It is the image of a man whose name I never knew, carrying a child who had died hours earlier, carrying this child into our fire base and begging for help.

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“There was nothing we could do. It was over.

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“This is what defeat looks like when you no longer have the choice of how to help.

“This doesn’t need to be defeat, but at the moment it damn well feels like it.”

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His comments sparked a round of applause from the House, breaking convention.

The US president was also criticised by Dan Jarvis, Labour MP for Barnsley Central, who served in the British armed forces in Afghanistan.

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He said: “It was particularly distasteful and dishonouring of President Biden to make reference to the lack of courage and commitment by those Afghan soldiers who have served with such bravery and distinction.”

Another veteran and Conservative former defence minister Johnny Mercer accused Prime Minister Boris Johnson of “consistently failing” to support former soldiers properly, and warned there would be a “bow wave” of mental health issues among veterans following the withdrawal from Afghanistan.

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He added: “The Prime Minister must not wriggle out of his commitments on this issue. The Office for Veterans’ Affairs is nothing like it was designed to be and he knows that.”

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