I was shocked and distraught to see the desperate images from Kabul over the last few days. This is, without doubt, a massive failing of the Western powers in general and the US in particular, something I reiterated on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire this morning.
Whatever the arguments about whether full withdrawal was necessary, it was done far too quickly and with not enough planning, with the priority on getting troops out rather than leaving a stable country. The plight of the Afghans is appalling, and I have been working over the weekend to help those left behind in what way I can. The situation is changing rapidly and I have returned to Parliament today to follow events very closely.
I am glad to see the UK is accelerating the departure of British nationals and Afghan staff, and support the Prime Minister’s efforts to ensure their safety, but it is vital that we work with our international partners to ensure there is a humanitarian corridor to save those most at risk from reprisals. We must work with our G7 partners and others to ensure a unified approach, both in terms of the future of Afghanistan and to prevent a humanitarian crisis. That is why I welcome the Prime Minister’s plans to host a virtual meeting of G7 to coordinate an international response.
Longer term, we will also need to work with our allies to ensure that Afghanistan does not again become a breeding ground for global terror attacks. I was present at the 9/11 attacks in New York in 2001 that the Taliban facilitated when they were last in control of Afghanistan, and I visited Helmund province and Kabul with Tony Blair, who told the British troops that the work they were doing was vital for global civilisation. We must ensure that the incredible sacrifices of British troops and Afghan people have not been for nothing.