General Sir Nick Carter has sparked outrage over positive comments about the Taliban during TV interviews.
Veterans, politicians and commentators rounded on the Chief of the Defence Staff after he suggested the Islamist group may have changed.
Andrew Neil claimed the top soldier had ‘joined the Taliban PR team’ and pointed out he had said the Afghan Army ‘was a formidable fighting machine’.
The ex-staff sergeant from Suffolk claimed General Sir Nick ‘knows as much about Afghanistan as Prince Harry‘.
Meanwhile Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy branded the army chief’s comments ‘unpalatable’ to Afghans trapped under Taliban rule.
She said if the military believes the group has changed since it was last in power in the 1990s then ‘we need to see some evidence’.
His latest comments come days after he penned an article saying it was ‘too soon’ to write off Afghanistan and the population was rallying in support of its army.
General Sir Nick Carter has sparked outrage over positive comments about the Taliban (pictured yesterday) during TV interviews
General Sir Nick suggested the Taliban wanted an ‘inclusive’ country – despite their record of oppressing women and enforcing a brutal version of Sharia law.
Responding to Sky News presenter Kay Burley referring to the militants as ‘the enemy’, he said: ‘You need to be careful when talking about the enemy.
‘What the Taliban are is a disparate collection of tribespeople, as President Karzai put to me only yesterday, they are country boys.
‘And the plain fact is they happen to live by a code of honour and a standard, it’s called Pashtunwali.
‘It has honour at the heart of what they do… they don’t like corrupt governance or governance that is self-serving and they want an Afghanistan that is inclusive for all.’
‘Except women?’ Burley interjected, to which he responded: ‘We have to wait and see… you have to listen to what they are saying at the moment.
‘I do think they have changed and recognise Afghanistan has evolved and the fundamental role women have played in that evolution.
‘And yes, they undoubtedly will say they want to respect women’s rights under Islamic law and that will be a Sharia law, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t allow them to be involved in government, education and medicine.
‘So I think we need to be patient and give them the space to show they can step up to the plate.’
Veterans and politicians rounded on the Chief of the Defence Staff (pictured) after he suggested the Islamist group may have changed
General Sir Nick’s comments come just days after he penned an article in the Times in defence of the now vanquished Afghan Army.
He wrote on August 7: ‘Thousands of people have been displaced and the potential for a humanitarian disaster is greater than at any time in the past 20 years.
‘It is too soon, however, to write off the country. There are increasing signs that the population is rallying in defiance.
‘Crowds in Kabul this week shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’ from their rooftops in support of the Afghan Security Forces.
‘This was reminiscent of people coming out during lockdown in support of the NHS. The cause may be different but this is what happens when people feel the need to act in unison in support of a common goal.’
Under Taliban rule, girls were banned from attending school, while women could only appear in public wearing full body coverings and accompanied by male escorts.
Women who did not faithfully observe the Taliban’s strict interpretation of Islamic law were publicly flogged or executed.
Some in the militant group have promised not to ban women from attending schools or work and to allow them into government.
General Sir Nick’s comments drew fury from veterans, politicians and commentators, with one even branding him an ‘apologist’.
Mr Neil posted on Twitter: ‘UK Chief of Defence joins Taliban PR team. Didn’t he tell us a few months ago that the Afghan Army was a formidable fighting machine?’
Mr Coult, who was awarded the MC by the Queen for his heroic actions in Iraq, told MailOnline: ‘I can’t believe he can be so deluded and out of touch.
‘I’m just confused why the Armed Forces has put its head in the sand. It’s absolutely shocking, I’m appalled at them.
‘It’s just soldiers again being used as pawns. He knows as much about Afghanistan as Prince Harry.’
He added: ‘Any general who tells you what’s going on on the ground hasn’t got a clue.
‘The soldiers fought very hard in the war and politicians have just p***ed on the graves of the 457 who died there.’
Mr Coult (pictured), who was awarded the MC by the Queen for his heroic actions in Iraq, told MailOnline: ‘I can’t believe he can be so deluded and out of touch
Shadow Foreign Secretary Ms Nandy appeared on Sky News moments after General Sir Nick and immediately lambasted his comments.
She said: ‘I think that’s a very difficult and unpalatable message to the many Afghans – including women and girls – who are not just suffering at the moment but also very very fearful about the future.
‘I think we should be talking to the Taliban, that’s absolutely right, but we should be get guarantees around human rights and the future of for women and girls.’
‘None of the guarantees have been given, so if there is a sense from military leaders that the Taliban may turn out to be different in their behaviour than we’ve seen in recent weeks then we need to see some evidence of that and they ought to be pushing for those guarantees.’
Shadow Foreign Secretary Ms Nandy appeared on Sky News moments after General Sir Nick and immediately lambasted his comments
Meanwhile Lynne O’Donnell, a journalist in Afghanistan, wrote on Twitter: ‘Gen Sir Nick Carter calls the murderers, liars, misogynists & drug dealers of the Taliban ”reasonable, changed”.
‘And there we were thinking he was a serious person. A fool and apologist, an embarrassment and liability. Shame on you.’
London-based commentator Isabel Oakeshott added: ‘Chief of the Defence Staff becomes apologist for the Taliban, calling them ”country boys” who dislike corruption and want inclusivity and appealing to people to give them a chance. Has he taken leave of his senses?
‘I wonder how all those who served in Afghanistan/lost limbs and loved ones in that godforsaken place feel about Gen Sir Nick Carter now depicting the Taliban as simple ‘country boys’ (his actual words) who want a country that’s ‘inclusive for all’ (his actual words).’
Soon after his comments politicians descended on Westminster to return to Parliament after it was recalled by the PM to discuss the Afghanistan crisis.
Boris Johnson said it was an ‘illusion’ to think Britain alone could have prevented the collapse of the country after the US withdrew its forces.
The PM denied the Government had been unprepared for the Taliban takeover at the weekend.
He told a packed Commons chamber the priority now is to evacuate remaining British nationals and their allies.
The Government has faced intense criticism – not least from Tories – following the rapid unravelling at the weekend of the Western-backed government of President Ashraf Ghani in the face of the Taliban advance.
Mr Johnson said when ministers came to consider the UK’s options after the US announced its intention to withdraw, they came up against the ‘hard reality’ that there was no will among allies to continue without the Americans.
‘The West could not continue this US-led mission, a mission conceived and executed in support of America,’ he said.
‘I really think that it is an illusion to believe that there is appetite amongst any of our partners for a continued military presence or for a military solution imposed by Nato in Afghanistan. That idea ended with the combat mission in 2014.
‘I do not believe that today deploying tens of thousands of British troops to fight the Taliban is an option that, no matter how sincerely people may advocate it – and I appreciate their sincerity – but I do not believe that that is an option that would commend itself either to the British people or to this House.
‘We must deal with the position as it is now, accepting what we have achieved and what we have not achieved.’
There were cries of disbelief from MPs when Mr Johnson rejected claims that the events of the weekend had caught the Government unawares.
He said planning had been under way for a number of months and that a decision to commission an emergency handling centre at Kabul airport was taken two weeks ago.
‘I think it would be fair to say that the events in Afghanistan have unfolded and the collapse has been faster than even the Taliban themselves predicted,’ he said.
‘What is not true is to say the UK Government was unprepared or did not foresee this.
‘It was certainly part of our planning – the very difficult logistical operation for the withdrawal of UK nationals has been under preparation for many months.’
Mr Johnson said the priority was to evacuate as many of the remaining UK nationals and Afghans who had worked with the British in the country as quickly as possible.
While the Taliban were currently allowing the evacuation to continue, he said it was unclear how long that would remain the case.
‘The situation has stabilised since the weekend but it remains precarious, and the UK officials on the ground are doing everything that they can to expedite the movement of people,’ he said
‘At the moment it would be fair to say that the Taliban are allowing that evacuation to go ahead.
‘The most important thing is that we get this done in as expeditious a fashion as we can and that is what we are doing.’
Johnson insisted the UK’s ‘core mission’ in Afghanistan ‘succeeded’ as he faced the wrath of the House of Commons over the military meltdown
Up to 25,000 Afghans in danger from the Taliban will be allowed to come to Britain in one of the most generous resettlement schemes in the country’s history
Mr Johnson said the Government had so far secured the safe return of 306 UK nationals and 2,052 Afghans, with a further 2,000 Afghan applications completed and many more being processed.
He acknowledged the sacrifice of the British forces who had served in the country since 2001, and said he was committed to working with allies to ensure it did not again become a centre of international terrorism.
‘Even amid the heart-wrenching scenes we see today, I believe they should be proud of their achievements and we should be deeply proud of them,’ he said.
‘They gave their all for our safety and we owe it to them to give our all to prevent Afghanistan from once again becoming a breeding ground for terrorism.’
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said there had been a ‘failure of preparation’ by the Government for which Mr Johnson bore a ‘heavy responsibility’.
He said the Prime Minister was in a position to give a lead on the international stage but had failed to do so.
‘The desperate situation requires leadership and for the Prime Minister to snap out of his complacency,’ he said.
‘We do not turn our backs on friends at their time of need. We owe an obligation for the people of Afghanistan.’
Overnight the Government announced plans to resettle 20,000 vulnerable Afghans – particularly women and girls – with 5,000 arriving in the first 12 months.
The plan drew criticism from some MPs that it was not generous enough but Home Secretary Priti Patel said it was important to have the right support in place first.
‘We cannot accommodate 20,000 people all in one go. This is an enormous effort. We can’t do this on our own,’ she told Sky News.
In the meantime, she said a separate scheme to resettle 5,000 interpreters and other local staff who had worked with the British was being expanded.
She said: ‘There could be up to 10,000. We are expanding categories of people. We are working with partners on the ground to identify these individuals.’