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Resignation of Tobias Ellwood from Chairmanship of Defence Select Committee


Tobias Ellwood has reportedly been forced to resign as chairman of the House of Commons defense select committee, two months after calling on the UK to restore links with the Taliban.

The MP visited Afghanistan over the summer and in a video posted on Twitter said the country had been “transformed” since the US-led withdrawal and the time had come for Britain to reopen its embassy.

The video sparked outrage, with a Conservative colleague on the committee comparing it to a clip from the ITV travel show Wish You Were Here…?, presented by Judith Chalmers.

Last night it emerged that Ellwood had resigned as chairman of the committee to avoid a possible no-confidence vote in the House of Commons.

No other committee members wanted to comment.

Ellwood, who had been chairman of the defense committee since 2019, used his video to praise infrastructure improvements since the U.S.-backed government fled two years ago.

The video, uploaded in July, said: “Everything that has happened here since 9/11 is really a very different country. It feels different now that the Taliban are back in power.

“It may be hard to believe, but security has greatly improved, corruption has decreased and the opium trade has virtually disappeared. High voltage pylons distribute electricity to cities, solar panels are now everywhere, powering irrigation pumps, allowing more crops to grow…

“After NATO’s dramatic exit, should the West now collaborate with the Taliban?”

A Taliban spokesman retweeted the video and said it was true that “many positive things” had been done.

Later that day in the House of Commons, committee member Mark Francois called the video “absolutely bizarre.”

He criticized him for not mentioning that the Taliban are still searching for Afghan citizens who helped our armed forces, or that girls cannot go to school.

Mr. Francois said: “Something that was described to me by a fellow defense committee just an hour ago as ‘Wish you were here…?’ video, in which you do not mention the fact that the Taliban continue to try to identify and kill Afghan citizens who have helped our military, and also do not specifically mention the fact that young girls in Afghanistan do not even have the right to go to school under that government.

“I want to make it clear, on behalf of the committee, that he was speaking for himself, although he used the title of our committee chair in several related articles. Not in our name.”

A day after the furor, Ellwood apologized and said he had been “wrong” with his comments.

In his controversial video, he said Afghanistan was a “war-weary nation” that accepted more authoritarian leadership “in exchange for stability.”

In Kabul, he said, the streets are “relatively” safe, all checkpoints are gone, businesses are reopening, but “unfortunately,” the British embassy is closed.

“However, there is a calm in the country that local elders say they have not experienced since the 1970s,” he said. “That is how long ordinary Afghans have experienced war.

“So do we shout from afar and risk another era of instability, a rise in terrorism and mass migration, or do we get involved again?

“If the EU embassy can open, so can ours. And incrementally we can encourage the incremental changes in the economy and, critically, for the education of girls and working women that we all want to see.”

Ellwood concluded: “I leave Afghanistan with a better understanding of how we can help this vulnerable country that feels abandoned by the international community.

“It’s time to reopen embassies, it’s time to re-engage, and Britain should lead the way.”

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