By William Hallowell | Editor
We broke our twenty year commitment to restore stability and democracy to Afghanistan; we cannot, now, abandon its people, as well as its land – and we must also not overlook the role of America in NATO’s withdrawal.
US and NATO forces entered Afghanistan two decades ago with a commitment to end the brutal autocracy and ruthless oppression of Taliban rule. We showed its people what democracy, freedom and – relative – peace looks like; but, now we have withdrawn our forces, Afghanistan will, ultimately, regress from our collective attempt at Western development.
The UK must prioritise, urgently, the evacuation of refugees and those who helped coalition forces fight the Taliban – we owe it to the Afghan people. It is indisputable that we are responsible for the chaos ensuing now, and the legacy of our departure that is now being determined.
It must be a priority to evacuate women, children and collaborators – and their families – who assisted Western forces throughout our two decades fighting the Taliban. It would be morally redundant not to, as they are the people who will be most affected by the rule of the Taliban, who have declared that women will live by Sharia Law. This is the true oppression of women, and is not comparable to anything some human rights ‘activists’ or ‘feminists’ may offer for an argument of women being oppressed in liberal, Western democracies, like the US or UK.
Former Conservative MP – and International Development Secretary – Rory Stewart hits the nail on the head. Talking to PoliticsJOE, Stewart said: “We have moral obligation to look after people who we encouraged – women who we encouraged to go to school, journalists who we encouraged to speak out, people who we encouraged to attack the Taliban for thinking we were supporting them… Britain should be proud to have these people”.
Finally, a voice of reason. He also argues that the Government’s commitment to resettle five thousand refugees in the next year isn’t enough. At long last, a politician who is speaking up for the brave Afghans who supported us, and who – at the very least – we owe sanctuary to. If we do not help these people, they and their families will inevitably be hunted down by the Taliban, and murdered for disloyalty to the despotic and dystopian jihadist cause. Even now, reports are circulating that say Taliban fighters are already going “door-to-door” to find Western “collaborators”.
However, some argue that we do not have a responsibility to help Afghans, and that it is ‘not our problem’. This is an ignorant – or even stupid – view at best; at worst it is totally inhumane. It seems many are lumping all refugees together, as if the immigrants crossing the English Channel are the same, and are in an identical situation, to those fleeing the Taliban; but they are incomparable – and that is because we are directly responsible for the crisis in Afghanistan, and directly responsible for the danger we have put its people in, as Rory Stewart also argues.
It was NATO’s – collectively – naïve and poorly decided military withdrawal instigated by Joe Biden that has led to what our former Veterans Minister, and ex-British army officer, Johnny Mercer has rightly described as a “humanitarian crisis of epic proportions”.
We have a moral and humanitarian obligation to support the people of Afghanistan. As for the refugee scheme the Government has committed to: it is skeptical of the crisis, and perhaps even dismissive by downplaying the enormity of the situation. Bluntly, it is pathetic. Whilst despite those arguing it is not our problem or our responsibility to take up – what should be – a leading role in the evacuation of refugees, it is the same people who fail to recognise the direct impact of a Taliban-governed Afghanistan on the UK and other NATO countries. Inevitably, it is only a matter of time before the Taliban declare their foreign policy aims: perhaps a larger and more fatal replication of the Manchester Arena bombing, or 9/11.
The Government has committed to resettling twenty thousand civilian refugees in addition to those who we employed as interpreters and the like. We can debate this figure as much as we like – whether we’re taking too little or too many Afghans – but what is more important is the time scale that the Government has laid out. Of the twenty thousand, we’re only resettling five thousand in the first year.
Honestly, why bother? This is an emergency: if the UK is only going to resettle as little as five thousand refugees in twelve months, one might wonder what the point of taking any is… We’re talking about the “long-term” goal of resettling twenty thousand asylum seekers, but it will be too late in six months – let alone one, two or three years down the line.
But, pragmatically, what cannot be overlooked is US President Joe Biden’s role in this catastrophe. Rightly or wrongly, he has been a longstanding skeptic of the West’s military intervention in Afghanistan, dating back to Barack Obama’s presidency when Biden served as Vice President. Realistically, the UK could not sustain a dominant presence in the country without the physical and political backing from the United States. Therefore, whilst it’s all well and good for Brits to lambast the UK Government – yet again with unrelenting criticism – (whilst neglecting to consider the wider picture), it is completely fair for our Government to withdraw our troops without America’s support – because Boris Johnson would never have supplemented the withdrawal of American troops with our own.
It is evident that Western forces were not ready to withdraw from Afghanistan, particularly as a result of the lack of resistance from the ANA and ANP (even with our training and equipment). However, despite how prematurely we may have left, we will not be going back without the support of America – and it is inconceivable that President Biden would U-turn on what is already such a humiliating and disastrous defeat for his country and his allies. Whilst it is easy to criticise and dish out blame, it is arguably true that had the US not withdrawn, and the rest of us follow suit, we would not have created this utterly depressing tragedy, and betrayal of the Afghan people.
Image credit: Resolute Support Media