A plan for British Special Forces to train the Taliban in counter-terrorism tactics to stop Afghanistan becoming a breeding ground for extremism has come under fire.
Intelligence sources say it has been suggested training teams could be made to work with Taliban forces as part of a future Foreign Aid deal.
Insiders stressed the plan was at the “extreme end” of a range of measures which could potentially be offered to the Taliban.
But senior military figures said any move to offer the Taliban support would be catastrophic and strongly resisted by defence chiefs.
It is understood that any potential training would take place outside Afghanistan – possibly in Pakistan or another country with links to the Taliban.
The controversial idea is likely to upset many in the UK military, including the SAS.
AFP via Getty Images)
The armed forces lost 457 men and women fighting in Afghanistan and more than 2,000 were injured over the past two decades. Currently, all aid to the Afghan government has stopped. But the view of the Foreign Office and many in No10 is that if the West does not offer the Taliban support, then China and Russia will.
A source said: “The UK has to be pragmatic, no matter how galling the situation is. MI6 is already holding talks with the Taliban. We had to deal with them with the evacuation so we have to take a grown-up approach.
“There are various aid packages which the FCO can offer and one of those can be the use of British military training teams.
“The SAS have a worldwide reputation and their use can make for a very tempting offer. We have helped train the Saudi Arabian armed forces and in 2019, they beheaded 37 civilians in a single act. Fifteen of the 19 terrorists in the 9/11 attacks were Saudis.”
But Lord Dannatt, former head of the Army, said: “What the UK Government needs to do first is to work out its strategic objectives. Only then will our future actions make sense. Just reacting to the latest good idea is a recipe for further disaster.” And a former commander of British Troops in Afghanistan said there could be no justification for helping “our enemies” which would “legitimise” them.
Warning any such move could backfire spectacularly, Col Richard Kemp, added: “We have no idea what the Taliban would do with any support we provided. They cannot be trusted, whatever they might say.
“These suggestions all fit into a narrative being pushed on both sides of the Atlantic to limit political fallout from the disastrous Western withdrawal, by pretending that the Taliban are our allies against IS. They are not.”
It follows a warning to counter-terrorism police that UK landmarks could be targeted by British-based terrorists in the run-up to the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
The Houses of Parliament, the London Eye, Canary Wharf, Heathrow and the main London rail stations are all considered targets.
MI5 chiefs are believed to have told Prime Minister Boris Johnson jihadis are emboldened and the UK is now “a less safe place”.
The Government never comments on SAS issues, but a spokesman said last night: “All aid to the Afghan government has stopped. We are only sending life-saving assistance through the UN and other trusted organisations.
“Any Taliban-led government must uphold its international obligations.”