Iain Duncan Smith hits out at top general's 'peculiar' remark that Taliban could change

22 August 2021, 11:40 | Updated: 22 August 2021, 12:03

Iain Duncan Smith challenged General Carter's comments
Iain Duncan Smith challenged General Carter's comments. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith has blasted the suggestion by Britain's top general that the Taliban needed space to govern.

Speaking last week, General Sir Nick Carter told LBC's Nick Ferrari that the group could form a "reasonable, inclusive government".

Those comments ran against widespread fears the Taliban will carry out reprisals on Afghans who helped foreign forces and the previous republic, and impose a strict version of Islamic law that will see women's rights curtailed.

General Carter, the Chief of Defence Staff, said it was too simplistic to paint them as the "bad guy" and added: "It may well be that the outcome is a reasonable, inclusive government.

"The jury is out… I think we need to be able to give them the space to demonstrate their ability."

He went on: "We should see if the leadership can, as it were, talk the talk and walk the walk at the same time and if they can I think we shouldn't rule out being able to at least provide humanitarian aid through their good auspices."

Read more: Head of UK armed forces says too straight forward to paint Taliban as 'bad guys'

Read more: Seven die at Kabul airport amid Afghanistan evacuation chaos

But speaking on Swarbrick on Sunday, Sir Iain told LBC: "I didn't make much of it (the comments), I'll be honest with you.

"I thought it was peculiar – what are we giving the Taliban time to do?"

He said he was helping his constituents get family out and their treatment reflected how the Taliban's fighters can behave.

"I've got a woman we've finally got through who got a punishment beating from the Taliban," he told Tom, claiming the group is trying to weed out those who helped the international forces in their campaign against the militants.

He added: "This is not a leopard that is about to change its spots, it is a brutal, intolerant organisation that's already been carrying out arbitrary executions and punishment beatings.

"I'm not sure what General Carter thinks we need to give them time to prove - I think they've already proven who they are."

General Carter did admit that within the Taliban, some members would behave in a "thoroughly reprehensible fashion".

Sir Iain said the UK needed to ensure it had enough troops to keep the airport secure and get out anyone who helped allied forces.

And, amid worries the US could withdraw by their August 31 deadline, he insisted the Government intervene and should have been "much tougher" with the Biden administration.

"We should be demanding, demanding, that the Americans stop this nonsense of this artificial deadline," he said.

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