Published: 15:35, 03 September 2021
| Updated: 15:53, 03 September 2021
A former British intelligence officer has warned the threat of terrorist attacks in the UK has increased because of the government’s failure to act on warnings about the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.
Mike Tapp, who served for five years in Afghanistan and Iraq and now lives in Kent, said the risk of attacks was greater, partly because it was now possible that Afghanistan would again become a training base for jihadists.
He said: “The immediate risk to the west is two-fold: there is an increased risk that jihadists from the UK and west will seek to travel to Afghanistan, where they will look to train – that might be with Isis or with Al-Qaeda.
"Individuals who go out there to train may then return to the UK, which leaves us in increased danger.
"It is difficult for the police and security services to monitor this if they are flying into neighbouring countries and then crossing the border then doing the same when they come back.”
Mr Tapp, who stood as a Labour candidate in the county council election last year and lives in Tunbridge Wells, added: “Obviously what we saw in Afghanistan prior to 2001 was the Taliban providing a safe haven for Al-Qaeda where they could operate.
"What that means is that they gave Al-Qaeda the ability to train and the ability to plan and even to raise funds for the terrorist activity.
"Clearly the Taliban has a sleek PR machine which is trying to persuade Western governments that it is not the same old Taliban..."
“This increases the chances of large-scale attacks on the west that we tragically saw on 9/11.
"So it does remain to be seen whether the current Taliban regime will do that again or will stick to its pledge to not allow terrorist groups to use Afghanistan as a base.”
He criticised the government for failing to act on intelligence reports that suggested the Taliban takeover was likely to happen much earlier.
“If our spies are providing the information but the ministers aren't reading it, then they are the ones falling down," he said.
"We have performed poorly. As well as intelligence forces can perform, it is down to ministers to also perform.”
He urged caution over the regime’s claims that it would not be a haven for terrorist groups.
“Clearly the Taliban has a sleek PR machine which is trying to persuade Western governments that it is not the same old Taliban.
"But we have to look at the links it now has with terrorist groups.”
The challenge was for the security services to not just monitor potential terrorists but to be able to take them off the streets, he explained.
“We might have an intelligence report that they have gone out there but building an evidential case to bring prosecutions is much more challenging, so we are likely to see more jihadists on the streets which does make us more than vulnerable.”