There has been a major miscalculation of the resilience of the Afghan forces and staggering complacency from the British Government about the Taliban threat. We now face the tragic rollback of the gains that UK soldiers, diplomats and NGO workers and their coalition and Afghan partners, worked so hard for.
The Government have had 18 months to ‘make a plan’ for the safe return to the UK for these people, yet we now find they were ill prepared, and delays occurred as relevant paperwork is having to be processed at the airport.
The scenes outside the airport have been extremely distressing particularly with the horrendous scenes due to the two explosions outside of the Airport, where sadly reports suggest at least 95 people were killed, including 13 US Military personnel.
The Government should have acted quickly to resolve these issues as their agreement with the Taliban to safely get UK Nationals and our allies out of Afghanistan ends at the end of August.
I supported Labours call for the Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab to have resigned or been sacked. Lisa Nandy MP, Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary, was right to question:
“What could possibly have been more important than safeguarding the legacy of two decades of sacrifice and hard-won victories in Afghanistan? While the Foreign Secretary lay on a sun lounger, the Taliban advanced on Kabul and 20 years of progress was allowed to unravel in a matter of hours.”
As you will have heard, the Government has announced a new Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme (ACRS). This will we resettle Afghan nationals who have been forced to flee their home or face threats of persecution from the Taliban.
However, the Government has said that this will take a total of 20,000 Afghan nationals “in the long term”, with 5,000 expected to be resettled within a year. I believe this does not meet the scale of the challenge. For those who desperately need our help now there is no long term.
The resettlement scheme must be generous and welcoming. If it is not, we know the consequences: violent reprisals in Afghanistan; people fleeing into the arms of human traffickers; and more people risking and losing their lives on unsafe journeys including across the English Channel. Global leaders should agree a coordinated humanitarian response, collective help for refugees and work to guarantee the safety of humanitarian workers and diplomats remaining in Afghanistan, while doing all possible to support the human rights of the people of Afghanistan.
In the recent debate on Afghanistan in the House of Commons, I made the point that we in Leeds are ready to welcome refugees, but they need safe corridors through Afghanistan, Open Borders and Safe Passage to the UK which the Government must provide.
Although I wasn’t called to speak in the debate, you can read the prepared speech here:
I fully support the words of our Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy, in her speech during the debate. You can see her full statement at:
The Government should also be consulting with our allies in NATO and key countries in the region about the implications of the collapse of the Afghan Government. There needs to be a coordinated approach from the international community to the changing situation on the ground, and a strategy to try to protect the gains made in the last 20 years on human rights, girls’ education and counter-terrorism.
My thoughts are with the Afghan people at this time. I will continue to follow developments in Afghanistan, and the Government’s response, closely.