I share my constituents’ grave concerns regarding the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan. My thoughts are with the Afghan people.
The world has been aghast at how the so-called democracy seemingly established in Afghanistan collapsed like a house of cards. Parallels with Vietnam and Iraq all came to mind over the weekend. I am relieved the Prime Minister has recalled Parliament today after he and his Foreign Secretary had to return from their holiday sunloungers as Kabul fell. You cannot coordinate an international response from the beach. Nonetheless, it all feels too little too late after what has been a deafening silence from the UK Government for weeks as city after city succumbed to Taliban rule.
A half-day debate after the fact with no votes feels futile. But Boris Johnson has form on this: he has never visited Afghanistan as Prime Minister. In 2018, he jetted off to Kabul just to avoid a vote on Heathrow.
Today, the Government must set out what steps it is taking to ensure that (a) the people of Afghanistan are not abandoned, and (b) all the advances made in the country are not unnecessarily lost. The Taliban has given assurances that they will respect women’s rights, but what is being done to hold them to this?
With the Taliban in control across the country, with billions poured in and with 457 UK service personnel deaths, it is impossible to look at the current situation as anything other than an un unmitigated disaster. The desperate scenes of Afghans running alongside a US military carrier as it travelled along a Kabul Airport runway will be the haunting image of a withdrawal that looks recklessly misjudged and unplanned. Biden’s statement with no contrition is a huge disappointment. It was clearly a Trump-esque piece of “America first”.
My heart breaks for what will unfold next in governance, in economic development and most importantly the rights of women and education for girls. During the past 20 years, women got the vote, made up a quarter of the Afghan Parliament, studied and worked in universities, were able to work. More children than ever were able to attend school, and the population at large were able to access basic medical care.
To reverse this progress in mere days is an unparalleled tragedy for all Afghans, not to mention British veterans. To avert a full-scale humanitarian disaster, the UK Government must:
• Consult with allies at the UN and NATO to establish a coordinated multilateral approach. There needs to be a strategy that safeguards the gains that have been made on human rights and ensures ground assistance is provided where needed. It is no good to simply be Washington’s poodle. True friends speak frankly.
• Ensure UK nationals and eligible Afghans are evacuated from the country as soon as possible.
• Establish specific safe and legal asylum routes to the UK and provide support to Afghans who are fleeing to neighbouring states. The Government must be bold, generous and ambitious and properly fund must local authorities to deliver. The relocation scheme must match the scale of the challenge we face. Relocating 5,000 Afghans this year simply isn’t good enough – more needs to be done. Ealing, which is already the proud home of large communities of Afghans, must step up and take its fair share.
• Grant amnesty to those in the UK already awaiting asylum decisions who cannot be sent back. The decks must be cleared for what is to come.
• Speed up efforts to provide sanctuary to those Afghans who served alongside and supported the British presence in Afghanistan. For instance, interpreters who supported our Forces and the UK media in the fight against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. It is shameful that many are still stuck in Afghanistan, fearing for their lives. The application process needs urgent reform. Those seeking sanctuary and safety to whom we owe a huge debt cannot be left behind.
• Immediately reverse the supposedly “temporary” cut to international aid. It is reported that direct aid to Afghanistan has been cut by 78%. That is shocking. Considering the chaos in Afghanistan and the ongoing global pandemic, it is high time the cut is cancelled.
I am reaching out to the Afghan community in Ealing, Acton and Chiswick to see what can be done for the diaspora community and ensure Afghan refugees get the support they need. I encourage constituents in Afghanistan to get in touch with my office (email@example.com).
The UK cannot, and must not, leave the people of Afghanistan to suffer the consequences of its failed joint military endeavour. Rest assured, I will do all I can as your MP to ensure this does not happen.
Rupa Huq MP
Member of Parliament for Ealing Central and Acton