It looks as if the final flight out of Kabul Airport will be next Tuesday- presumably bringing out our own troops who have done such magnificent work over the last couple of weeks. It may well be a grave error strategically, and President Biden will have to answer for that. But tactically it has been handled as well as it could be and I salute 2 Para in particular for all they have done.
There will without doubt be some people who are well deserving of evacuation who will be left behind and may face vicious reprisals of one sort or another. It is a bitter irony (although a perfectly predictable one) that after twenty years of bloodshed and vast cost, we are surrendering this loose amalgamation of tribal states back to the very war lords from whom we liberated it. I hate the thought that it may once again become a haven for International terrorism, and I am sorry that Afghanistan will now rejoin a very large part of the world where women’s rights and freedoms are non-existent; and where free liberal economies and the democracy which we love cannot exist. All of that is a sadness and a tragedy; and we must now do what we can diplomatically and economically to correct it- just as we do with so many dictatorships around the world.
All of that is true, and I join with my many correspondents and constituents who are horrified by the pictures on the News over the last week or two.
However: I wonder if I could offer a slight counter-balancing thought? First, we Brits actually withdrew from Afghanistan seven years ago- in 2014. We had stayed there longer than most people wanted; we had done our job (more than) and could not accept any more young dead soldiers coming back through Royal Wootton Bassett. So those who are now suggesting that we are ‘abandoning Afghans to their fate” are blind to the fact that we actually did so many years ago. Those who were most vociferous in calling for us to leave at that time (and the anti-War campaigners who never wanted us there in the first place) are the very same voices who are now calling for us to stay longer in pursuit of feminist liberties, and to risk thousands of young lives in a desperate attempt to hold the airport and get yet more people out.
Second, we warned that all of this would happen in March and gave all of those with British passports and connections due notice that they should leave immediately. Why did they not do so? I have every sympathy for example, with the British vet and his 80 dogs and cats. But why did they not leave sooner? Why are they calling for British soldiers to risk their lives in support of their (no doubt very worthy) cause? There are 25 million or so women in Afghanistan, many of whom will now face restrictions on their western-style liberties (although of course Afghanistan always has been a matriarchal society- women rule the roost at home albeit not in public.) How many of them should we welcome, and where should they go when they get here? I am not at all convinced, for example, that we should make over the vacant married quarters in Lyneham to Afghan refugees as some have suggested. It’s not just about housing; it’s schools and doctors too.
Third, if we are to have any hope of Afghanistan rebuilding itself, we must encourage doctors and nurses and civil servants to remain in their home country rather than seeking a better future in the west.
So I have every possible sympathy for those most concerned about the shambles in Kabul; but I do also have reservations about what solution they are proposing. It is very easy to join assorted bandwagons at a time like this, seeking emergency help for one cause or another. Much harder is to plan a long term and sustainable solution to the crisis.