The Conservative chair of the defence select committee is facing a no confidence vote over a tweet which appeared to praise the progress of Afghanistan under Taliban rule.
Tobias Ellwood, MP for Bournemouth East and a former soldier, deleted the tweet on Wednesday night after telling TalkTV: “I got it wrong”.
In the widely criticised video, Mr Ellwood urged the UK to re-engage with the country and reopen its embassy. He said security in Afghanistan had “vastly improved” since the Taliban returned to power, and suggested the West encourage the uptake of women’s rights “incrementally”.
“After Nato’s dramatic departure, should the West now engage with the Taliban? You quickly appreciate this war-weary nation is for the moment accepting a more authoritarian leadership in exchange for stability”, he said.
He added that there was “a calm to the country that local elders say they’ve not experienced since the 1970s”.
Since retaking power in 2021, the Taliban have restricted many Afghans’ rights.
The video, which the Taliban welcomed, came as part of a visit to Afghanistan with the Halo Trust, a de-mining organisation.
A number of Conservative MPs, including Mr Ellwood’s colleagues on the defence committee have criticised the remarks.
Mark Francois raised the issue at prime minister’s questions on Wednesday.
“I and some of my colleagues on the Defence Committee were absolutely stunned to see a video posted by our own chairman lauding the Taliban’s governance of Afghanistan, not mentioning they’re still trying to identify and kill Afghan civilians who sided with Nato forces, and also not mentioning the fact they don’t like girls to go to school,” he told the house.
Prime minister Rishi Sunak said he would look into Mr Ellwood’s visit.
Although there may be no way of ousting Mr Ellwood as defence committee chair before the summer recess, MPs are said to be instead planning to move when the House returns in September.
The Times reports that MPs are moving to table a vote of no confidence in Mr Ellwood on account of the video.
Johnny Mercer, the veterans minister, who served three tours in Afghanistan with the army, said his friends had been “murdered by the Taliban”.
“I’m clear, as is the government, the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban was a tragedy of epic human proportions”, he told MPs on Tuesday. “I fought the Taliban myself. The Taliban murdered my friends. It is clear the Taliban represents a serious threat to human rights and the treatment of women”.
However, Mr Ellwood did receive some backing. Fellow Conservative MP Bob Seely, who served in Afghanistan, told MailOnline: “Tobias is being brave, intelligent and credible to make this argument and to visit Afghanistan.
“I thank him for doing so. Just because it is painful to hear, it doesn’t mean it’s not true and at least it’s an important opinion that needs to be heard”.