Please find below my latest update to constituents on the situation in Afghanistan. Please be aware that this update was accurate at the time of writing (01/09/21) but may have since been overtaken by events.
I am writing again to update you on the situation in Afghanistan as you had written to me with your thoughts and I promised to keep you updated.
I wish this update would bear more good news, but unfortunately the situation has deteriorated even more rapidly since I last was in contact. I am sure you are all aware of the terrorist attack carried out by ISIS-K in Kabul. Sadly, the suicide bomber killed between 79-169 Afghans and 13 US military personnel along with some British nationals. This was a tragic act of violence and I am deeply concerned that a symptom of this withdrawal, is that acts of violence and oppression will only occur more frequently, either under the Taliban or from Jihadist fighters, operating within Afghanistan.
For the last twenty years, Afghans and especially female Afghans, have seen themselves participate in education in large numbers, and liberties that were a pipe dream in the late 90s had become the norm for many citizens. Unfortunately, the actions of the last couple of weeks have robbed many Afghans of the freedoms and aspirations that were supposed to be guaranteed after the first fall of the Taliban. Indeed, the ‘moderate’ face the Taliban has tried to present to the world media is already slipping. I shudder to think what might happen when they believe the world has started to look away. The international community has leverage through the aid that is required for Afghanistan and I hope that route is taken to exert some pressure.
The British personnel in Kabul airport have fulfilled a herculean task to withdraw so many in such a short space of time. They were understaffed, under resourced and without much leadership from the Government and yet 17,000 have been evacuated by the UK. This includes 5,000 UK nationals. Unfortunately, the Foreign Secretary confirmed the other day that a number “in the low hundreds” of UK nationals have been left behind in Afghanistan. This is unacceptable. The UK government has known for 18 months that this withdrawal was coming. We should have had planning in place in plenty of time to ensure that every UK national and Afghan that has assisted us could make it out. There are also an unknown` number of Afghan nationals who have been left behind and we must ensure there are safe passages to neighbouring countries to get those that helped us out of harm’s way. That scheme has not yet been set up and the Foreign Secretary at the Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on 1 September had nothing to offer.
The Taliban has managed to secure Kabul airport, so the UK is facing extremely challenging circumstances to extract those UK nationals that are still present in Afghanistan. I can’t begin to think of the terror those who have been abandoned by their own government are feeling right now.
My office has been working nonstop to deal with casework of those stuck in Afghanistan. Some of the cases have been truly heart breaking but we have given every one our full attention and effort. After all this effort, I was distraught to discover that the Foreign Office has been ignoring correspondence from MPs. This is not responsible government. I and my colleagues have all been inundated with tragic and urgent cases of UK nationals needing immediate evacuation. My staff have been working incredibly hard so it is extremely frustrating, to put it lightly, that the UK government has refused to even engage with many enquiries. We continue to do all we can.
I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of generosity I have seen from constituents, eager to welcome Afghan refugees to Edinburgh. At the bottom of this update is a list of charities I have been directed towards that are working in Afghanistan. I will continue to keep you updated on any developments regarding the resettlement scheme.
I would also like to comment in more detail on the Foreign Secretary’s select committee appearance on the 1/9/2021.
This was a staggeringly poor showing from a Foreign Secretary who is completely out of his depth. Unprepared for hard questions. Unwilling to admit mistakes. Unable to answer basic questions about how many British nationals have been left behind. Unsure who he had spoken to, about what or when. Unable to offer any advice to those still in danger in Afghanistan.
Despite his own department’s clear warnings weeks before Kabul fell, the Foreign Secretary was asleep at the wheel. He could have stepped up the evacuation, issued warnings to British nationals and increased resources in his department. Instead, he chose to go on holiday. Today’s committee session was a moment for humility and accountability, a chance to take responsibility for the chaotic failures that brought us to this point. Instead, he refused to apologise to troops who had to fly into danger to do a dangerous and difficult job because he hadn’t done his.
Britain is now weaker in the world and faces greater threats to our national security. Nobody could watch today’s session and conclude we have a government capable of rising to the challenge.
Lastly, MPs have been given long briefings from the Foreign Office, Home Office and Ministry of Defence on the issues in Afghanistan but none have been able to satisfy us that enough is being done to resolve and alleviate the situation for those still there. There is a special Shadow Cabinet this morning to discuss what we will be doing on this issue as parliament returns on Monday. I can assure you we will continue to do all we can for the immediate crisis and on the longer-term planning required.
Thank you once again for getting in touch about this important subject. It is reassuring to see constituents welcome Afghans with open arms and going above and beyond to try and assist in such a difficult situation.
UK charity which works in provinces in Afghanistan where other organizations have no presence.
Volunteer-led charity working within Afghanistan.
CHILDREN WITHOUT BORDERS
Longstanding non-profit organization offering children humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan.
An Italian organization providing free, high-quality medical and surgical care to victims of war in Afghanistan.
INTERNATIONAL COMMITTEE OF THE RED CROSS (ICRC)
Humanitarian assistance from food and water to medical care for Afghans within Afghanistan
INTERNATIONAL RESCUE COMMITTEE AFGHANISTAN
IRC has been working in Afghanistan since 1988. They provide emergency assistance to internally displaced people.
One of the most reliable humanitarian assistance organizations, approximately 90% and more of your donation goes to assistance
MEDECINS SANS FRONTIERS AFGHANISTAN
International organization providing life-saving medical care to victims of war in Afghanistan, Syria and other war-torn areas. The thing about MSF donations is that MSF will target them. This means you cannot guarantee that your money will go to help Afghanistan. If you want to guarantee that the funds go to an Afghan charity I recommend https://www.afghanaid.org.uk/
MUSLIM HANDS UK
Aid Agency and NGO helping those affected by poverty, conflict, and natural disaster
Provides humanitarian assistance and ongoing emergency relief in Afghanistan