THE former leader of British troops in Afghanistan has accused western countries of being “fair weather friends” to Afghanistan following the United States’ decision to withdraw troops.

Colonel Richard Kemp, who attended Colchester Royal Grammar School and served in the British Army for 29 years, said the decision to pull military forces out of Afghanistan was a costly error.

He led British forces in Afghanistan in 2003 and has fought in combat zones around the world including in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Macedonia and Iraq.

The Taliban has been resurgent since the US withdrawal, having reclaimed ten provincial capitals in less than a week.

Colonel Kemp, 62, who lives in the Colchester area, described the withdrawal as a “message of betrayal”.

He said: “I think it’s a grave mistake which throws away all the achievements of allied forces in Afghanistan.

“If the Taliban hold on to what they’ve gained and take Kabul, it means we are facing a very serious terrorist threat.

“The net effect in terrorist terms is that we will be at the highest level of threat since the height of Isil.”

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Colonel Kemp added the resurgence of the Taliban would result in other nations taking advantage of western troops’ absence.

“In regional terms, the vacuum will be filled very quickly by China, Russia, Iran, and Pakistan, who have funded the Taliban over the years.

“They will be using Afghanistan for their own influence and will exploit their resources. Anything they can get, they will take.”

“The West are fair weather friends and can’t be relied upon when the chips are down – what this has caused is a significant undermining of western influence across the world.”

With a particular emphasis on how this might affect Colchester, Kemp stopped short of saying the Afghan war was a waste of military lives, but he did say it was a tragedy to see western involvement end in such instability.

“In relation to Colchester this is an issue that will be very close to people here.

“Many people who live in Colchester will have been out there fighting so it will mean a lot to people here – they will be very concerned and will know what is at stake.

“The war was not a waste of life or sacrifice but it is a tragedy that it is ending how it is.”