War is not the way to deal with problems in Afghanistan, says former hostage

War and aggression is not the way to deal with problems in Afghanistan, former hostage Terry Waite has said.

Mr Waite, who spent almost five years in captivity after being kidnapped by Islamic terrorists in Lebanon, said that we “cannot impose Western culture on the whole of the world”.

He said that we sometimes have to recognise our limitations, and “cannot police the whole world”.

“I’ve been there (to Afghanistan) many years ago,” said the 82-year-old, of Hartest, Suffolk.

“I know the difficulties of that terrain, of those people.

“They’re a proud people, they’re a resilient people.

“They will get through this I’m sure and I’ll say one thing I’m quite convinced of: war and aggression is not the way to deal with these problems, not the way at all.

“We’re too quick sometimes to go to war and think that war is going to solve the problems.

“It will not.”

Hostage International challenge fundraiser
Terry Waite, 82, who was held hostage in Lebanon from 1987 to 1991 (Joe Giddens/ PA)

He said he has a “feeling that things will settle rather better than many people are anticipating” in Afghanistan.

“I can only hope that what I hear that the Taliban have made some reforms, I only hope that is true,” he said.

“But what we have to recognise in these situations is that different cultures have different ways of behaving and we cannot impose Western culture on the whole of the world.

“Sometimes we cannot police the whole world, we just can’t do it.

“I think we have to recognise our limitations sometimes.

“Where there are cases of flagrant violation of human rights then we should speak out fearlessly, no doubt about it, but let’s not run away with the idea that we can solve every problem in the world from here.

“But it doesn’t mean to say we shouldn’t try to be compassionate, understanding, supportive.”

Mr Waite was released from captivity in Beirut on November 18, 1991, nearly five years after being kidnapped by Islamic Jihad while working as a hostage negotiator.

He said he was kept in solitary confinement and when anybody came into the room he had to put a blindfold over his eyes.

He said he faced a mock execution and “wondered if I was going to be beheaded or shot”, describing it as a “near do”.

He said he was also beaten.

“I was in a dark room, had no books or papers, nothing,” he said.

“Those were difficult years. When I came out I got help.

“It took time to readjust to life and a lot of people then approached me who had either been hostages themselves or who had friends who were taken hostage or family and they asked for help.

“I did what I could for them and then I realised this was an ongoing need.”

Mr Waite is co-founder of the charity Hostage International, which says on its website that it offers “independent emotional and practical support to families affected by a loved one held hostage, and to returning hostages”.

To mark the 30th anniversary of his release from captivity, the charity is holding a fundraising event called Beirut & Back – Challenge for All.

The virtual event will see people using any human-powered means to contribute towards covering 5,700 miles, the distance from Mr Waite’s home in Suffolk to Beirut – and back.

The challenge began on September 4 and runs until Sunday.

For details, see: https://www.hostageinternational.org/news/hostage-international-launches-its-first-mass-challenge-fundraiser/