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Resignation of Tobias Ellwood as Defence Committee Chair Following Afghanistan Video

Mr. Ellwood has been under pressure to quit after a ‘bizarre’ social media video saw him praise the Taliban’s management of Afghanistan.

Chair of the Defence Select Committee Tobias Ellwood has announced his resignation amid criticism over his remarks on Afghanistan under Taliban rule.

Mr. Ellwood was under pressure to quit, following a call for a no-confidence vote by four members of the committee.

His leadership was questioned after Mr. Ellwood’s statements after a visit to Afghanistan in July.

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Defence Committee Chairman Tobias Ellwood Backtracks on Taliban Video

In a video message, he described Afghanistan as a “country transformed.” Mr. Ellwood said that “security has vastly improved, corruption is down and the opium trade has all but disappeared” since Taliban took over in August 2021.

The clip had little mention of women’s rights abuse in the country and was heavily criticised by other committee members.

Conservative Party members of the committee Mark Francois and Richard Drax, joined by Labour’s Kevan Jones and Derek Twigg, submitted a no-confidence motion in Mr. Ellwood before the parliament broke up. The vote was expected to take place on Thursday, but Mr. Ellwood’s resignation notice came first.

In a statement he shared on X, formerly known as Twitter, Mr. Ellwood said he had a strong voice when it comes to defence and security, but didn’t “always get it right.”

“I stand up, speak my mind, try to see the bigger picture and offer solutions, especially on the international stage, as our world turns a dangerous corner. I don’t always get it right-so it’s right I put my hand up when I don’t,” Mr. Ellwood said.

His video message also included a call for the UK to re-open its embassy in Kabul, after it suspended operations following the Taliban takeover.

Mr. Ellwood questioned whether “shouting from afar” would risk another era of instability, a rise in terrorism and mass migration, and would do little to improve girls education and women’s work rights.

“Poor communications, during the summer, in calling for greater international engagement in Afghanistan was understandably criticised at the time and reflected poorly on the committee,” Mr. Ellwood said in his resignation statement.

He noted that, while he retained the support of the majority of the committee, he couldn’t stay on as chair if all in the room were not supportive of his leadership.


In July, the MPs heard from Mr. Francois, that Mr. Ellwood was not speaking on behalf of the defence committee when he made the Afghanistan remarks.

During a Commons debate, Mr. Francois called the remarks “bizarre” and criticised Mr. Ellwood for “lauding the Taliban’s management of the country, something which was described by a fellow member of the defence committee to me barely an hour ago as a ‘wish-you-were-here video.'”

Another batch of criticism came from the former leader of the Conservative Party, Sir Iain Duncan Smith. He told the House of Commons in July that Mr. Ellwood’s video was “not a very welcome statement.”

“I saw that an Afghan woman who remained nameless promptly wrote on his Twitter ‘shocked,’ she said, ‘Afghan women have been thrown to the wolves and that is referred to as peace,’” Sir Ian told the MPs.

The minister for veterans’ affairs Johnny Mercer, who led the debate in Commons, told the MPs that the government’s position remained unchanged and called the fall of Afghanistan a “tragedy.”

He added that the UK lost 457 British service personnel, fighting the Taliban, in pursuit of freedom, peace and women’s rights.

Following the criticism by fellow committee members and MPs, Mr. Ellwood apologised for his “errors” and said his reflection of the Afghanistan visit could have been better worded.

Mr. Ellwood served as the defence committee chair for three years, having previously held the role of the defence secretary from 2017 to 2019.

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