Senior British politician widely condemned for “disgusting” Taliban “propaganda”

The British parliament’s chair of Defence Select Committee, Tobias Ellwood, has been widely condemned for his advocacy for deeper engagement with the Taliban and the opening of the British embassy in Kabul.

The highprofile Conservative MP, in an article for the Daily Telegraph on Monday, following a trip to Afghanistan, urged the British government to “re-engage” with Taliban and open its embassy in Kabul.

Ellwood, a former soldier, claimed that the Taliban has “vastly improved” security, corruption has “all but disappeared” and opium trade “has seemingly gone”.

Ellwood also posted a video of his trip on Twitter, in which he makes the argument again. “Hold your breath – but this is a country transformed,” he says. He later repeated his argument on the BBC against the former member of Afghanistan’s parliament, Fawzia Koofi.

“A principled engagement with clear outcome is in the interest of all sides. Women centric political process that will bring the government acceptable by all, is the way forward.” Koofi said.

But, Ellwood, who first called for Taliban recognition in February 2022, has faced a fierce backlash on social media.

Stephen Pollard, the editor-at-large of the Jewish Chronicle newspaper, accused Ellwood of being a propagandist for “the most brutal, barbaric regime on earth.”

Jennifer Blair, a British lawyer, called Ellwood’s video “disgusting“.

Shaharzad Akbar, the former chair of Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission, condemned Ellwood for lacking “critical thinking” and said foreign visitors to Afghanistan should talk to those persecuted by the Taliban.

Journalist Zahra Joya, the founder of Rukhshana Media, called Ellwood’s stance a “heartbreaking narrative” for the people suffering under the Taliban.

Lord Ian Austin, a member of the British House of Lords, called the Taliban’s rule a “brutal medieval misogynist dictatorship” and asked if Ellwood had spoken to women and girls or families of those killed by the group.

Barrie White, a journalist, compared Ellwood’s video to 1933 Germany. “Absolute sickening,” he said.

Another British journalist, James Ball, called Ellwood’s stance “absolutely and completely reprehensible.”

Sitarah Mohammadi, a human rights activist, accused Ellwood of whitewashing the Taliban’s crimes.