Recall of Parliament over Afghanistan
August 18, 2021
Today I have been in London for the emergency recall of Parliament to discuss the victory of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
I listened carefully to the Prime Minister’s statement, and in particular to the well-informed and moving contributions by those MPs who served there as members of our armed forces.
The terrible scenes from Kabul are a sign of the bleak future facing that troubled country, and the United Kingdom is rightly considering what we can realistically do to help, together with our allies.
The American decision to withdraw in this way has rightly been criticised, and meant the current situation was inevitable. Without making a prolonged commitment to keep troops on the ground, they could have continued supporting Afghan government forces with air cover, which would have provided anti-Taliban operations with vital intelligence and firepower. The removal of this help understandably devastated Afghan morale and will to fight, leading to the current collapse.
As a country, we may have to look at building capacity so we are less reliant on one ally in addressing similar complex global problems, and encourage our European neighbours to match our efforts by pulling their weight.
This will also be a moment of pain and reflection for all armed forces veterans of Afghanistan. We must remember their astonishing and lasting contribution, which prevented that country being a haven for terror attacks in the UK, and offered lifechanging opportunities to millions of Afghans, especially women, the experience of which the Taliban will struggle to blot out.
900 British troops have already been delayed to Kabul to assist our brave diplomatic staff in evacuating UK nationals and Afghan staff and refugees.
York must of course play its full part in the urgent national effort to offer sanctuary to Afghans who have assisted our armed forces and officials. We have a clear duty to protect those who protected us, and also to help those at clear risk from the new regime, such as Afghan female judges and similar figures.
So far, I am encouraged by the government’s pledge to offer refuge to 20,000 affected Afghans, in addition to the ongoing relocation scheme for thousands who assisted our troops, under which we have already protected 2000 former Afghan staff and their families since 22nd June.
I will look to ensure our city’s makes the appropriate contribution to this work, which must be carefully focused on those in most need.