Constituency matters… a weekly column by the Member of Parliament for Folkestone and Hythe, Damian Collins 18 August 2021.

Over the last two weeks we have watched with increasing dismay, the rapid collapse of the government of Afghanistan and the return of the Taliban to power. For many of our current and former service personnel, this will have been a heavy blow.

I think in particular of the Royal Gurkha Rifles and all other members of the armed forces from our community who served trying to bring peace and stability to that country. They will want to know why this has been allowed to happen, given the sacrifices they made, and the loss of the lives of people they served alongside.

For the government of Afghanistan to have fallen in no more than ten days, shows that either the Afghan security forces were totally unprepared to engage in this conflict, despite the assurances given to the contrary, or that they felt no compulsion to fight in support of the former regime.

Despite the early promises from Taliban spokesmen that there will be a general amnesty for the Afghani people, including for those who worked with the American, British and other international peacekeeping forces, we must fear the worst.

We must be prepared to stand by the people who stood with us, and to offer shelter and safety to those who may face death as a result of the return to power of the Taliban. We cannot turn our backs on the crisis in Afghanistan, and we must surely have learnt over the past twenty years that a humanitarian disaster in one nation can soon become a problem for the whole world, and one that will quite literally reach our shores.

The United States President, Joe Biden, was right to say that US armed forces couldn’t stay in Afghanistan indefinitely, but not following their withdrawal should we have expected the immediate collapse of the Afghani government.

However this is presented, it has been a failure of policy, one meaning that as we mark the twentieth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in America we will once again see the Taliban back in control in Afghanistan. There will be fears that their return will not only lead to a reversal of the liberal reforms in that country, but that they will bring back the suppression of women in society, denying them the chance to work and receive an education.

The threat of western sanctions against the new government of Afghanistan will carry little weight in Kabul. They will almost certainly soon come to rely on the support of other countries, China in particular, and will pay little regard to us.

We must though remain vigilant against terrorist organisations once again being allowed to train and develop their resources within the borders of that country. Alongside the tragedy of Afghanistan lies another great question for the West in the 21st century, with democracy now in retreat around the world.

That is, what are we for beyond the protection of our own interests and national security?

If we believe that peace and democracy are the best guarantee for the advancement of the conditions of all people, how are we promoting those values and supporting other nations to follow that path.

By Ed

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