Afghanistan: Boris Johnson's idleness, naivety and lack of leadership exposed as crisis unfolds – Ian Murray MP

The Prime Minister and his government have been asleep at the wheel while a catastrophic situation in Afghanistan has escalated in plain sight.

Thursday, 19th August 2021, 4:55 am
Foreign policy failings like the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban require better leadership than being provided by Boris Johnson (Picture: Roger Harris/UK Parliament/AFP via Getty Images)

A staggering complacency about the Taliban threat, coupled with a major miscalculation about the resilience of the Afghan forces, has put the lives of British and Afghan people at great risk.

The Foreign Secretary even had the gall to stay on holiday while our mission there was disintegrating.

The disaster which unfolded in recent days has not only cost any remaining trust in the UK government, but it has also diminished us around the world.

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As Theresa May said yesterday, what happened to Global Britain? Gains made through 20 years of sacrifice hang in the balance.

Armed Forces personnel from Edinburgh, Scotland and across the UK who served so courageously in Afghanistan did not do so in vain. They brought stability, advanced progress and reduced the terrorist threat.

But we now face new threats to security and an appalling humanitarian crisis. This effort demands tight co-ordination, something we’re yet to see from the government.

The implications of this crisis cannot be under-stated, not only for Afghanistan but the UK. We should be fearful of the risk of major human rights regressions in Afghanistan, particularly for women, girls and Afghan government supporters.

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We should remain alert to the more long-term terrorist threat that the Taliban poses to international safety and security, and ensure we work with allies and through the UN Security Council to curb this threat.

Considering this situation, the government’s decision to slash development support to the country appears evermore shameful.

Three years ago, Parliament demanded that the Conservative government provide greater support to Afghans who have supported our military and humanitarian work, something that Labour has continually called for.

However the naivety and idleness of Boris Johnson is proving to be more costly than we could have imagined.

Foreign policy failings of this scale require leadership and we’re yet to see that from the PM or Foreign Secretary.

The UK government’s priority must now be to work with our partners and regional allies to ensure there is a co-ordinated national response to the spiralling humanitarian crisis unfolding in Afghanistan, particularly a global response to the inevitable refugee crisis.

The government must lead on devising a British Afghanistan Resettlement Programme, and it must ensure that this creates safe and legal routes so those suffering at the hands of the Taliban are welcomed, protected and can make a new life here in Britain.

We must also begin working with Afghanistan’s neighbours to understand the scale of the refugees coming to those countries and put measures in place to support those fleeing.

Here, the Scottish government must get to work ensuring that refugees are welcomed here.

We should be proud that almost a fifth of the Syrian refugees who came to the UK since 2015 have settled in Scotland, and have been able to call it home, so I urge the government in Holyrood to honour its pledge and ensure that the same stands for Afghan refugees.

The consequence of this catastrophe will be felt far and wide.

There’s now a duty on all those in charge to ensure that gains made through 20 years of sacrifice are not lost.

Ian Murray is Labour MP for Edinburgh South

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