The scenes from Afghanistan are truly horrifying. I am certain that the humanitarian crisis now unfolding was not inevitable. The chaos being unleashed from the utter collapse in the Afghan government and civil society will stain history for years to come, as the people of Afghanistan enter into a new age of turmoil and destruction.
Those of us who have followed events over the past few decades have drawn inspiration from the work of our service personnel, NGOs and Afghan people who have worked so hard to rebuild their society after so much violence. The images beaming back from Afghanistan are ones we never wanted to see.
I know of people in Bristol South with friends and family in Afghanistan and they are desperate for news of their loved ones. They want to know how they can help. Our greatest gift is our humanity. We all wonder what we would do, how would we cope and what would we want from others in these times. Over the coming days and weeks, I hope we have more clarity on the situation and details on what practical help individuals can provide for those fleeing and those who remain.
But with all the good will in the world, ultimately there is a limit as to what individuals can achieve. We needed much more from our government over the past months and years as the situation worsened but there is still much they can do. Firstly, focusing on the humanitarian suffering and leading efforts within the UK, NATO and in our role as leader of the G7, and also recognising that the security situation in Afghanistan has serious implications for the safety of the UK and our allies at home. Taliban rule could facilitate a resurgence of ISIS and al-Qaeda, which has been held at bay by the NATO presence in Afghanistan since 2001.
The fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban will also permeate the UK’s ability to act with decisiveness in the decades to come. We have already seen Chinese state media boasting how Taiwan should no longer feel safe about western guarantees in the Straits of Taiwan, and Russia will no doubt use this as further evidence that their foreign policy objectives in Ukraine, Georgia and the Baltics are tolerated by NATO.
I am proud to be a Bristol MP. Our city is a City of Sanctuary and one that has welcomed refugees in the past. We are also the political home Ernie Bevin, the Labour Party’s great post-war Foreign Secretary who did so much to forge Britain’s role in building international institutions, like NATO, to promote peace. Our humanity and politics mean we do not turn our backs, we are never safe if terror is allowed to thrive elsewhere.
As former Prime Minister Theresa May said today, we must now redouble our efforts in renewing NATO. Its role and position in defending international peace has been challenged by the events of the past week. We cannot allow its standing in the world to be undermined.
The debate and legacy of the UK’s involvement in recent wars has led to a culture of looking inwards and believing that not intervening is a noble position without consequences. We are seeing the effect of that, and I hope a more informed and nuanced debate about our role in the world and how we support peaceful partnerships beyond our own neighbourhood of nations starts to happen.
I will be working with women across Parliament to ensure that the rights of women in Afghanistan are considered throughout the coming months. Harriet Harman expertly put it to the Foreign Secretary that he must speak to the women in Afghanistan and surrounding nations. All too often they are forgotten and under Taliban rule they will be silenced. We cannot allow this to become the accepted norm in international diplomacy.
At present optimism is our only raft in these turbulent times. My optimism remains that the people of Afghanistan, particularly the courageous women who have taken a public lead in the last two decades, will have tasted the freedom many of us take for granted. It is my sincere belief that they, and the generation they helped, will not be vanquished. But they need to know we have not forgotten or abandoned them.
I’m already in touch with constituents seeking news of family and friends. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you are searching for answers and I will do all I can to get answers from the Foreign Office and Home Office. Email me at Karin.firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0117 953 3575.