UK foreign policy would change under a Labour government to one that “reduces rather than increases the threat” to the country, Jeremy Corbyn has said.
As election campaigning resumed after the Manchester attack, the Labour leader pointed to links made between wars Britain had been involved in and “terrorism here at home”.
In a speech, Mr Corbyn said: “The war on terror is simply not working”.
Security Minister Ben Wallace told the BBC his comments were “crassly timed”.
And Lib Dem Leader Tim Farron accused Mr Corbyn of using the “grotesque” attack in Manchester to “make a political point”.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Theresa May will chair a session on counter-terrorism with G7 leaders in Sicily, Italy, on Friday.
Mr Corbyn delivered his speech as the bigger political parties return to the campaign trail following Monday night’s suicide bombing at Manchester Arena that killed 22 people, including children, and injured 116.
He pledged a “change at home and change abroad” if Labour wins power.
He said that “many experts, including professionals in our intelligence and security services, have pointed out the connections between wars that we have been involved in, or supported, or fought, in other countries and terrorism here at home”.
“That assessment in no way reduces the guilt of those who attack our children.
“Those terrorists will forever be reviled and implacably held to account for their actions.
“But an informed understanding of the causes of terrorism is an essential part of an effective response that will protect the security of our people that fights rather than fuels terrorism.”
Former MI5 chief Baroness Manningham-Buller told the Iraq Inquiry in 2010 that the 2003 invasion of Iraq had “undoubtedly increased” the terror threat to the UK and had radicalised “a few among a generation who saw our involvement in Iraq, on top of our involvement in Afghanistan, as being an attack on Islam”.
Mr Corbyn, who opposed UK military intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan, and voted against strikes in Libya and Syria, said: “We must be brave enough to admit the ‘war on terror’ is simply not working.
“We need a smarter way to reduce the threat from countries that nurture terrorists and generate terrorism.”
He added: “No government can prevent every terrorist attack. If an individual is determined enough and callous enough, sometimes they will get through.
“But the responsibility of government is to minimise that chance – to ensure the police have the resources they need, that our foreign policy reduces rather than increases the threat to this country, and that at home we never surrender the freedoms we have won and that terrorists are so determined to take away.”
BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner said there was no denying that British foreign policy was one of the reasons used by terrorists to justify what they were doing – but it was one of many reasons, and generally they were people with troubled pasts, who had often been in trouble with the law.
Shadow international trade secretary Barry Gardiner said there was no “simple causal relationship” between foreign intervention and terrorism, but “we need profoundly to reassess the way in which there are linkages”.
Speaking on the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Gardiner said it was “undeniable that young radicalised men from this country have used the excuse of British foreign policy and the chaos that has often resulted”.
But Conservative Security Minister Ben Wallace told Today Mr Corbyn’s timing was “appalling”.
“We have to be unequivocal, that no amount of excuses, no amount of twisted reasoning about a foreign policy here, a foreign policy there, can be an excuse. The reality is, these people hate our values.
“The way to see that off is not to feed excuses, not to allow these people – that right now our police are trying to find – to give them any cause to think: Well I’m slightly justified.
“They are not justified.
“In this country it’s democracy, the rule of law, equality that we stand for and we absolutely reject terrorism – and so should Jeremy Corbyn – on all fronts.”
Mr Corbyn also said that a Labour government would fund more police and ensure the security services had sufficient resources “to keep track of those who wish to murder and maim”.
On BBC Question Time, Home Secretary Amber Rudd said it was not right to suggest that cuts in police numbers made the Manchester attack more likely.
Labour’s former home secretary, Charles Clarke, told BBC Two’s Newsnight that Mr Corbyn was “simply wrong” about the war on terror.
And Lib Dem Leader Tim Farron said: “A few days ago, a young man built a bomb, walked into a pop concert and deliberately slaughtered children. Our children. Families are grieving. A community is in shock.
“Jeremy Corbyn has chosen to use that grotesque act to make a political point.
“I don’t agree with what he says, but I disagree even more that now is the time to say it. That’s not leadership, it’s putting politics before people at a time of tragedy.”