Thank you to the constituents who have been in touch to share concerns about the situation in Afghanistan, which is both shocking and tragic. The circumstances are evolving but the outlook is bleak. The events of the last few days have been a hammer blow to a nation which has already endured decades of turmoil, and more widely to the values of democracy and freedom in the region.
The most pressing priority for the government at this stage should be to ensure the safety of UK nationals and all Afghan nationals who have served alongside and supported the British presence in Afghanistan. This includes Afghan interpreters and their immediate families who are now at risk of the worst repercussions from the Taliban. These brave individuals have already put their lives at risk to support our troops, and we owe them an enormous debt of gratitude. In Parliament I’ve repeatedly highlighted the flaws in the resettlement scheme for Afghan interpreters and their families, with systemic delays and bureaucratic hurdles meaning that many families have still not been reunited. They simply cannot wait any further, and I’ve written to the Home Office and Ministry of Defence today to ask that these cases be prioritised immediately.
I am thinking today of these brave interpreters, and all the UK soldiers, diplomats and NGO workers who have worked so hard and given so much in the pursuit of a brighter future in Afghanistan over the last 20 years. I know the events of the last 24 hours will have been distressing for forces families in Newport East and across the UK. The resurgence of the Taliban is a tragic rollback of the gains their loved ones made – and in many cases, gave their lives for – and serious questions need to be asked about the failed political and development strategy in the region over the last decade.
I am also thinking of the women and girls, religious minorities, and political opponents of the Taliban who face an uncertain and frightening future today. There is a real risk of a humanitarian disaster, and it is wrong that the government cut development support to the country just as it faced this grave crisis. The UK Government must show it is taking immediate steps to ensure aid reaches those in need, and it must put in place specific safe and legal asylum routes to help support Afghans who are fleeing to neighbouring states.
I completely agree with Keir Starmer’s remarks that we cannot turn our back on the Afghan people. The UK made solemn promises to Afghanistan, and we cannot afford to walk away and undermine the hard-fought legacy of the last 20 years, particularly as there is a risk that the country could once again become a safe haven and operational hub for international terrorism which threatens our national security. The international community needs to come together now and meet its moral obligations to the people of Afghanistan at this critical juncture.