Tag Archives: afghanistan

Tom Arms’ World Review

France and Germany

The Franco-German alliance is wobbling. As if to emphasise the problem, this past weekend the entire German cabinet decamped to Versailles in an attempt to improve relations.

The relationship between Paris and Berlin is one of the cornerstones of the European Union. It has been held since 1960 when Charles de Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer ended a century of war and suspicion at Reims Cathedral.

Some of the current problems can be attributed to the egos of Macron and Scholz. President Macron makes no secret of his desire to lead Europe. Unfortunately the French economy does not match its president’s ambitions. At the same time the rather colourless Chancellor Olof Scholz is having difficulty filling the over-sized shoes of his predecessor Angela Merkel.

The personal relationship between the two leaders is complicated by important policy differences over China, Ukraine, Russia and energy. Scholz encourages trade with China. Macron is more diffident. The French president also wanted the German Chancellor’s recent visit to Beijing to be a joint Franco-German affair. Scholz refused.

On energy, the French are annoyed that the Germans failed to foresee the problems of dependence Russian oil and gas and remain reluctant to build nuclear power plants. About 70 percent of French energy is nuclear while in Germany it is only 12 percent.

Then there is Ukraine. The French – along with most of the rest of France and Germany’s allies – are annoyed that almost every scrap of German military and economic aid has to be dragged out of the Scholz government. When it comes the aid is often generous, but the “frank discussions” that precede it are causing friction.

India

Don’t mess with the BBC. That should have been the message that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi heeded before trying to ban a documentary attacking him.  The BBC has 22,000 staff, 192 million radio listeners, 294 million television  viewers, the world’s most visited news website. Distribution deals with television networks around the world, and the most trusted brand in world journalism.

None of the above, however, stopped Modi from banning a two-part documentary entitled “India: the Modi Question” from being shown or distributed in India.

The documentary was not Modi friendly. In fact, it was extremely unfriendly The programme strongly implied that Modi climbed to power on the back of divisive Hindu nationalism. Also that while Chief Minister of Gujarat in 2002 he stood aside and allowed Hindu rioters to massacre 1,000 Muslims . That was part one. In Part two, the documentary accused Modi of trying to disenfranchise the Muslim minority; suppressing freedom of speech, assembly and the press, intimidating his political opponents and moving the world’s largest democracy towards an authoritarian Hindu state.

So, the programme was not re-broadcast on Indian television. But the ban was reported in the Indian press. The resultant publicity meant that  tens of millions viewed it on the internet and at special showings at Indian universities. And as they watched the viewers would have asked: If it isn’t true why has Modi banned it? Of what is he frightened? And finally they thought: the BBC is usually reliable.

The documentary ended with a diplomat saying that the Western world is turning a blind eye to Modi’s political excesses. He said that India was too important as an economy and a counterweight to Chinese influence in Asia.

Doomsday Clock

The Doomsday Clock this week moved to 90 seconds to midnight. This is the closest it has ever been to nuclear Armageddon. The minute hand has been moved to its news dangerous position mainly because of the war in Ukraine.

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Do deficiently informed citizens live in a deficient democracy?

Are voting and other democratic functions corrupted and/or negated when significant news is denied, distorted, diverted and/or dissipated?

Some information is, wrongly and rightly, kept secret for strategic reasons. However, when we are confronted with the results of past policies and actions there are no strategic reasons for secrecy. The obscuration of history to protect the reputations of politicians, officials, civil and military comes behind the need for the citizenry to be well informed so that their inputs to the democratic processes may be better in the present and the future.

As is currently the case with the “West’s” leaving of Afghanistan, such information is available if energetically sought and/or stumbled across, but it is sufficiently backgrounded or submerged so that it does not reach the general or national consciousness. It is restricted to a minority who can be disregarded by those who seek to engineer undemocratic secrecy. When the national consciousness is insufficiently unaware, then there is minimal effect on our “democratic” government.

Currently, we have lots of news about the Taliban take over, the horrors they bring and will bring and the huge harm and deprivation that has and will be done to female Afghans. We are not being told about the Afghan government which preceded the first Taliban takeover.

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Moran: Britain’s response to Taliban is a story of betrayal

Witing in yesterday’s i newspaper, Layla Moran said we must help Afghans in the UK by moving them out of hotels and into homes.

The UK Government promised that our doors would be open to Afghans at risk – including women, LGBTQ+ people and minority groups – but it has shut them as soon as they thought nobody was looking.

What about those who did make it to the UK?… Ten thousand Afghans remain stuck in hotels up and down the country… A significant proportion of these people put their lives on the line to help UK forces during the war and were promised the chance to start a new life here in the UK. Instead, they’ve been left in limbo by the Conservative Government.

A year on government promises to Afghans and to the British public lie in tatters, Moran says. “We will not let those commitments be forgotten.”

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Observations of an expat: more global moves

The Ukraine War continues to create tectonic shifts on the global diplomatic scene.  This week it has helped Beijing stake its claim to Afghanistan and Central Asia as a Chinese sphere of influence.

Also in Asia, New Delhi has become the centre of diplomatic ferment as East and West bid for support from the South Asian giant.

At the same time, the EU has ditched its “talk about trade only” policy with China to join the US in pressuring Xi Jinping to come out against the war.

In the meantime, Putin has turned the energy screws on Europe by demanding that they pay for his gas in roubles in order to support the sanctions-damaged currency.

The move has been welcomed by Beijing who think that the Western alliance will collapse in the face of the energy crisis. The EU and US however, remain united in demanding that China must not help Russia circumvent sanctions, climb off its rickety fence, act like a responsible global power with a stake in the world order, and pressure Putin to stop the killing in Ukraine.

But let’s start first in Afghanistan and central Asia where China has organised a multilateral initiative to stake its claim to replace the US as the major foreign power in Central Asia following the American retreat.

The diplomatic manoeuvrings started last week with a visit to Kabul by Chinese delegation led by Foreign Minister Wang Yi. The acting Afghan Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi described his guests as “the most important high-level delegation received by Afghanistan.”

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Tom Arms’ World Review

The world’s television cameras have shifted to the tragedy of Ukraine. But that does not mean that the problems elsewhere have disappeared. If anything they have worsened as the money and attention has shifted to the danger of a European, East-West war. There are now 89 million displaced people in the world. The greatest number ever in history. Here’s a very brief summary of some of the worst:

Syria celebrated (if that is the correct word) the 11th anniversary of the start of its civil war this week (15 March). It has, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the dubious distinction of being the centre of the world’s largest displacement of people. The death toll is estimated at 500,000. Six million are internally displaced and five million have fled the country. The biggest number of refugees are in Turkey – 3.7 million. The UNHCR reports that it has only received seven percent of the $465 million it needs for 2022 to provide basic food and shelter. One of the hardest hit areas is Northern Syria where 1.5 million people are living in snow-covered tents spread over 1,489 separate camps. The problems are not confined to the areas where refugees have fled. In about 100 villages in the government-controlled Aleppo region the people are suffering from the absence of drinking water. Possibly the only good news in Syria is that some of Assad’s soldiers are being diverted to Ukraine to help the Russians and the Russians may be unable to provide the assistance to Assad that they have contributed to date.

The Ethiopian war between the government of Abiy Ahmed and the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front continues to rage out of the spotlight. So far it is estimated that there are 1.7 million internally displaced people and 500,000 in refugee camps in Sudan. The war has also spread to the Amhar region as the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front attempted to march through that territory to attack Addis Ababa.  Because of a blockade by federal forces no food or medical aid has been delivered to Tigray Province since mid-December. Three-quarters of Tigray’s health facilities have been destroyed. Forget about covid jabs. Both sides are reported to be guilty of rape and murder and have been burning crops, slaughtering livestock and destroying grain stocks. The result is famine. The director-general of the World Health Organisation Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (himself an Ethiopian) has described the situation as “catastrophic.”

The BBC World Affairs Editor John Simpson has described the aftermath of the war in Afghanistan as the “destruction of a nation.” Before the Taliban victory 80 percent of the Afghanistan’s budget was derived from foreign aid – mainly from the US. But a humiliated and angry Washington has frozen $10 billion of Afghanistan’s foreign reserves, $7 billion of which is directly held in the Federal Reserve Bank. There is talk of half of it being released for humanitarian relief with the rest going to the victims of the 9/11 attack. The Afghan people certainly need the relief. Roughly 85 percent of a population of 38.4 million are facing starvation. Unemployment is up. Food Prices are up. The Afghan currency is plummeting. Because they are malnourished, there is a measles epidemic among the children. Covid is rampant. The UN has asked for $4.4 billion for basic foodstuffs. By the beginning of March $1.4 billion has been raised.

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The dire situation in Afghanistan – governmental and individual action is needed

Embed from Getty Images

Earlier this Autumn, I had the privilege of talking with three women who had been trying to bring awareness to the dire situation developing in Afghanistan. Sitting outside the Palace of Westminster day after day, these dedicated women were not only inviting people to discuss the NATO withdrawal, but were also participating in a hunger strike to demonstrate their disdain towards the new Taliban regime. Since our initial meeting, I have met with these women multiple times, and I have begun to understand more deeply the feelings held by those in Afghanistan.

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Lib Dems Abroad: Supporting Afghans fleeing Taliban

At the Lib Dems Abroad first-ever Global Conference successfully held last weekend, I announced that a flight took off from Mazar-i-Sharif in Afghanistan that morning carrying around 200 Afghan female judges and their families bound for Athens. A first flight of Afghan female MPs arrived in Athens a few weeks ago. Another flight is expected to take more Afghan female judges and their families bound for Abu Dhabi.

However, these are the last flights envisaged for Afghans trying to flee their country in the face of the Taliban and also vengeful criminals released from prison by the Taliban who seek retribution for their previous sentences by Afghan female judges.

On board that flight to Athens were the four family members of Gul Ahmad Kamin MP, leader of the Afghan Civil Democrats, a group with whom Lib Dems Overseas has been working with for several years in the Afghan Wolesi Jirga or Parliament. And we have now succeeded in getting the leader’s family out. We will work on gaining the UK government’s support for their resettlement in the UK.

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An encounter with a refugee from Afghanistan

The refugee crisis, ways in which people in often desperate need of help, should be supported, still hugely divides politicians, decision makers, families and our communities.

  • “Welcome or not welcome”?
  • If welcome, how many?
  • Support legitimate governments in war torn countries?
  • Send aid? Where to?
  • Support directly organisations such as British Red Cross?

Endless questions…There is not one easy answer. There is not one solution to solve this complex and global issue. People have always migrated. People will continue to “move around” for a wide range of reasons. Some of us have a choice of going back to our native countries, however many individuals have absolutely no choice. That choice was often taken away from them without their will. The decision to flee was “imposed” on them. Many refugees that I met since I arrived in the UK, often, didn’t want to leave their homes.

In the last week or so, I had another opportunity to meet a refugee, this time from Afghanistan. It is one thing to read a story in the paper or watch a bit of “refugee news” on TV; it really is very different when we encounter someone who had to, often overnight, leave absolutely everything.

Imagine this: it is hard, however you have a job, you work and you are able to support your family. Then, due to “external factors”; sudden change of circumstances, in order to remain safe and alive, you have to flee. You are then “parachuted” into another country, UK in this case. You are moved around; from Birmingham, Croydon, to Hertfordshire. You are given very little support. You have to find your way around a very inhumane and complex system. You might be moved again as your accommodation was given to you on a temporary basis. You have nothing; not even a buggy to move your child around while you are trying to find the best way to stay “sane”. You are tired, confused, bewildered. Endless emails, confused messages; an absolute nightmare. But, you still smile…How? I have no idea. A simple, often emotional conversation, with a real person can hugely change our perceptions on how to support refugees.

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World Review: Afghanistan, child labour and vaccine passports in France

In this weekend’s World Review, Tom Arms reports the Taliban is proving to be a loose coalition that is quickly falling apart along centuries-old tribal lines and more contemporary political axes. He turns his attention to the impact that Covid is having on child labour in the developing world. And he reviews how Marcon’s insistence on vaccine passports turned France from an country opposed to vaccination to one where 74% of adults have had at least one dose.

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Liberal Democrats table motion to dock Raab’s pay

Today in Parliament the Liberal Democrats are tabling an Early Day Motion to dock Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab’s pay over his handling of the Afghanistan crisis.

They are also calling for the Government to use the money saved to fund the resettlement of Afghan refugees, following reports of a £557m shortfall in resettlement funding.

Commenting on the motion, Liberal Democrat Chief Whip Wendy Chamberlain MP said:

Dominic Raab is one of the worst Foreign Secretaries in British history.

He has presided over the worst foreign policy disaster since the Suez and decided to spend more time on the beach instead of picking

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Observations of an Expat: Nation Building

To nation build or not to nation build? That is the question vexing Western capitals in the wake of humiliating defeat and failure in Afghanistan.

Is it nobler to continue to attempt to export/impose Western political and cultural values to the rest of the world or does Afghanistan spell the end of a policy which has dominated foreign affairs since the end of World War Two?

When NATO forces invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 they had clear goal: Remove the ruling Taliban from power so that the country ceased to be a base for international terrorism.

But then the policy changed to nation building for two reasons.

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World Review: Qatar as power broker, EU rapid deployment and abortion in Texas

In one of history’s ultimate ironies, the West may end up working with the political organisation it overthrew and fought for 20 years. The reason? To prevent another more extreme Islamic organisation from using the central Asian country as a base for terrorism. ISIS-K has made it clear that it wants to use terror to undermine the West and export Islamic fundamentalism. It has also said that the Taliban leadership is as much a target for their suicide bombers as Americans.

At a Pentagon press conference this week, General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of the Staff, described the Taliban, as “ruthless” but added that in war “you do what you must.” When asked if the US would cooperate with the Taliban, he said: “that is a possibility.”

Meanwhile British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab flew to Qatar which has been acting as intermediary between the West and the Taliban.

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Afghans and their loved ones pay the price of a UK PM who doesn’t care

Jo Swinson was right about many things. Just after she became leader in 2019, she told Iain Dale that the worst thing about Boris Johnson is that he just doesn’t care about anything other than himself.

Nowhere has that been more obvious than in the way he has behaved over the evacuation from Afghanistan.

The way you act when you are in a leadership position is a powerful signal to those below you about how important you think something is. If you are passionate about getting something done, it’s very clear.

There’s a reasonable expectation that, at times of crisis, your leaders are going to look a bit like they are devoting everything to sort things out. You want to see a bit of worry, empathy, stress on their faces. We, instead, have a carefully dishevelled Prime Minister looking like he doesn’t have a care in the world, asking stressed staff at the Foreign Office if they are the ones being inundated by emails. I mean, I am sure that if Armando Iannucci had suggested that scene for The Thick of It, they’d have binned the idea as being too far-fetched. Ed Davey said that the video showed Johnson in his true light:

These flippant remarks show Boris Johnson in his true light, uncaring and unable to master the detail during this awful crisis.

The emails he refers to are from desperate family and friends worried that the Taliban will kill their loved ones.

Perhaps if Boris Johnson had understood and planned for the dangers of the Kabul evacuation, thousands of people would not be at crisis point.

Wendy Chamberlain added on Twitter:

Our MPs have been really good at supporting their staff with the emotional impact of this work with Ed taking time to message his appreciation.  Their caseworkers work alongside MPs supporting worried loved ones and all of them really care about the people they are trying to help.

And then we discover from the Observer today that many of the emails sent to the Government from MPs were not even read.

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Tom Arms’ World Review – 29 August

Afghanistan

As Kabul descends into chaos it is becoming painfully clear that this is largely due to poor political leadership in the West. America – Trump and Biden – bear the lion’s share of the blame. Trump for laying the groundwork and Biden for failing to jettison Trump’s work and the serious miscalculation that the government of Ashraf Ghani could hold back the Taliban tide.

But the Europeans also have to accept a big share of the blame, especially British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The British were the lead European partner in Afghanistan. They have (or had) the second largest NATO military force and have a historic involvement in the country. President Biden made it clear back in April that he would withdraw US troops by 9/11 at the latest. Boris did nothing. It was not until the Taliban was banging on the gates of Kabul that he started trying to organise European NATO to persuade Biden to remain in Afghanistan or, at the very least, substantially delay US withdrawal. Even then something may have been salvaged if Boris had not been leading the charge. As one former senior diplomat said: “He has virtually zero credibility with the Biden Administration and every EU capital. He is regarded as lazy, untrustworthy and a political lightweight.”

Western diplomats are fleeing Afghanistan in droves. In fact, most of their embassies now stand empty. But that is not the case with the Russians. Their diplomats are operating at full tilt strengthening relations with the Taliban with whom they have been quietly working for several years. Taliban leaders have been in and out of Moscow since for some time, and at one point the Trump Administration was accusing the Russians of supplying the Afghan Islamic rebels with weaponry. The charge was successfully denied. But the change of regime has been warmly and publicly welcomed by the Russians who maintain that the Taliban victory will bring peace and prosperity to the streets of Kabul and hills and valleys of rural Afghanistan.

Part of the reason for the Russian diplomatic offensive in Afghanistan is to fill the political vacuum left by the West and exploit America’s humiliation and discomfort. But there are also practical considerations. Russia retains wide-ranging economic and military interests in the former Soviet republics of Central Asia. It is concerned that instability, Jihadism and a rogue Taliban will destabilise the other Asian stans and encourage Chechen rebels. They are also concerned that a failed state in Afghanistan will result in an increase in the drug trade with Russia. Moscow still has painful memories of their nine-year war in Afghanistan, but practical politics have won the day.

The UK

More signs that Brexit is beginning to bite. It has taken longer than expected, but the reality factor is replacing the fear factor. As predicted by Remainers, it is the lack of EU immigrant workers which is causing the current problem, especially in the agricultural and trucking industries. The two sectors rely on what is classified as unskilled labour to harvest the crops and move those products to supermarket shelves while still fresh. Unskilled jobs have been traditionally filled by immigrants, mainly because they are dirty, physically exhausting, and low-paid and involve long hours. British workers don’t want them. The result is that the number of lorry drivers is down by 20 percent and agricultural workers by at least 25 percent. Supermarkets are seriously worried about empty shelves.

The response of British Home Secretary Priti Patel is “pay more money and hire British workers.” There are several problems with this diktat. First of all, there is already a general labour shortage caused partly by Brexit and partly by Covid. Next, although, agricultural work and truck driving are classed as unskilled, that is a labour fallacy. Anyone who has spent a day picking strawberries or trying to drive a heavy goods vehicle will testify to the fact. So recruiting indigenous Brits will involve a training period. Which means a delay. Then there is the impact that such a move will have on inflation. Increasing the salaries of 320,000 lorry drivers and 176,000 agricultural workers will have a significant impact on wage inflation. It will also substantially increase the cost of products across the entire range of commerce as transport costs are added to the retail price. Already supermarket chains are paying drivers bonuses of up to 25 percent to move goods to shelves before they spoil. Unable to compete with the private sector will be the public sector, which means, for instance, that local councils face the prospect of a shortage of drivers of dust carts to collect rubbish.

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Observations of an Expat: Trusting the Taliban

Can we trust the Taliban? President Joe Biden says the US has to work with them. But can we accept their assurances that women will be allowed to be educated and not forced to wear the oppressive burka? That foreign journalists can remain in Afghanistan to monitor their activities?

Do we believe the Taliban leadership when it says it will allow foreign nationals and Afghan citizens who worked with them to leave the country and that American and British troops can protect Kabul Airport until 31 August to ensure their safe departure? And, most importantly, can we trust their pledge to prevent Afghanistan from again becoming a base for international terrorism?

Or are those the right questions? Should we instead ask: Do we trust the Taliban to control a historically uncontrollable Afghanistan? Because if they can’t, any other pledges are worthless.

The Taliban is comprised of individuals in the same way as any other political group anywhere in the world. They are united in their belief that Afghanistan should be governed by Sharia law, but a bewildering variety of conflicting groups disagree about the interpretation of that law and the tactics to be used in achieving that goal.

There are three basic camps within the Taliban. The first is the leadership. Twenty years in the wilderness, prisons and negotiations with America is believed to have invested them with a greater degree of political sophistication and realism than when they were last in power. Then there are the military commanders who have had no involvement in the discussions with American negotiators. Some of them support the leadership. Some of them are working with the third rogue group who are ignoring the leadership, closing down schools, arresting and sometimes killing Afghans who worked with Westerners; forcing women into burkas and imposing the harshest tenets of Sharia law.

But that is only part of the chaos. There are the organisations tangentially linked to factions inside the Taliban but outside the main group.  Specifically there is Al Qaeeda and ISIS-Khoramshar Province (aka ISIS-K). The latter organisation is responsible for the double bombing outside the Kabul Airport Perimeter which has – as of this writing – claimed 90 lives and 150 wounded.

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Ed Davey: Extend Armed Forces Covenant to Afghans who supported British troops

The Armed Forces Covenant protects UK military veterans and their families. In the i Ed Davy has called for the Covenant to be extended to include Afghan soldiers and interpreters who have been working with the British forces in Afghanistan.

He says:

The UK owes a huge debt of gratitude to all the Afghan citizens who heroically took a stand and worked alongside our brave men and women on the ground over the past 20 years.

Without their selflessness, we simply couldn’t have achieved what we did and undoubtedly more lives would’ve been lost. It is only right that their huge contribution is recognised and rewarded.

We must start by ensuring all Afghan interpreters, and their families, are able to come to the UK. Now is not the time for arbitrary caps on refugees – unless we offer sanctuary they will be hunted down by the Taliban, and we will see a humanitarian crisis unfold before our eyes.

He will table an amendment to the Armed Forces Bill when it comes before Parliament and it is likely to receive widespread support.

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Vince Cable: UK needs to take lead on Afghan refugee crisis

Writing in the Independent, former Lib Dem leader Vince Cable talks of harrowing scenes at Kabul airport and asks if Britain is planning to take enough Afghan refugees and whether the Home Office is thinking of treating them with a generous spirit. Some Afghans working for our government will be told they do not have a strong enough connection with Britain, even though the documents showing that connection could qualify them for execution by the Taliban. Are we an overcrowded island? Or will we benefit from people who bring skills, entrepreneurial energy, cultural diversity and a supply of labour to regenerate an ageing country? Or should we simply accept refugees out of compassion?

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Afghan refugees: a perspective from Herts

My grandparents fled the pogroms in Russia and several members of my family escaped from the Nazis in Germany. A lifetime as an activist in the Liberal Democrats has taught me that immigration is a blessing not a curse and we have always stood up for those fleeing persecution. And as an Asylum Judge, I heard every day harrowing tales of people who have not been welcomed to our country. The first Afghan refugee arrivals came to two hotels bang in the middle of my division in Hertfordshire.

Sunday morning saw a three mile traffic jam outside a car park. People had rushed to local shops to buy items we had requested for our welcome guests.

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An Afghanistan catastrophe Part 2 (of 2)

In Part One, I offered a view of why and when the occupation of Afghanistan failed. In Part Two, I explore the future implications.

The first shorter term problem is the evacuation.

It could be used as pretext to keep a contingent of special forces in the country, and keep the conflict going. Liberal Democrats have emphasised the need for a land corridor from Kabul to Pakistan, but this would require negotiation with the Talebs, as yet absent.

A further dimension to this is the wave of Western media stories about ISIS and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, despite scant evidence on the latter, and formal ‘Western’ reports dismissing scare stories on the former.

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Ed Davey: Boris Johnson has failed again

Ed Davey has criticised Boris Johnson for failing to make any progress at the G7 summit today.

He said:

Boris Johnson has come out from this summit with nothing. Britain should stand tall in the world, but this Prime Minister falls short at every turn.

He has failed on the global stage once more, and the consequences could not be more devastating.

We abandoned all those who needed us in their hour of need; those who have put themselves in danger to protect British troops, vulnerable women and girls, and all those who simply fought to make their country a better place to live.

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The Afghanistan Evacuation: Could the ‘Cairo Plan’ of 1946 have offered a solution?

Britain has stood in shock at events in Afghanistan, but how far has our party offered any meaningful solution to the evacuation crisis?

While we can and should blame US foreign policy failings, is there anything our government could and should have done in the last two weeks to relieve the situation?

This is not the first time Britain has faced the need to organise an emergency evacuation of Westerners and their allies from a foreign capital. There are many historical parallels – for example, could the ‘Cairo Plan’ of 1946 have pointed to a way of managing the evacuation much more effectively?

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An Afghanistan catastrophe, Part 1 (of 2)

It is tempting for UK political figures unfamiliar with the wars in Afghanistan, to view recent events as a ‘surprise loss for the West’ that is ‘all the fault of President Biden’. Neither is true. I will attempt a summary.

The war was ‘lost’ many years ago. Talebs and other insurgents controlled a majority of the country after the first five years. By the end of 2009 ICOS (Western-funded) reported that the Talebs had a controlling presence in 97% of the country, and had de facto control of Districts representing almost two thirds of territory.

Certainly when I first arrived in 2008 the Talebs controlled the road from central Kabul and the Compound to the airport, requiring a dangerous circuitous route. Driving to Jalalabad or Kandahar, there were Taleb road blocks, some taking ‘fees’. The game was already over. Why?

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Observations of an expat: Afghan consequences

The defeat in Afghanistan of the liberal democrat West and the victory of an authoritarian Islamic fundamentalist Taliban has worldwide geopolitical consequences.

It has called into the question America’s commitment to its allies; provided political ammunition to China and Russia; emboldened fundamentalists in Iran and elsewhere in the Middle East and Africa; increased the threat to Israel; weakened NATO; prompted a re-think in India; and, encouraged many in the Far East.

Governments around the world heaved a collective sigh of relief when Joe Biden replaced Donald Trump in the White House. Trump’s “America First” policy tinged with isolationism and a shoot-from-the hip unilateralist foreign policy was a serious concern in capitals across the globe. They welcomed the statement from foreign affairs expert Biden that “America is back.”

But Biden’s refusal to listen to the concerns of NATO allies and order a precipitate withdrawal has led many to think that Trump’s unilateralist America First programme has become bipartisan. European NATO has long accepted US dominance of the alliance as essential to their survival. But it refuses to become an unconsulted-taken-for-granted adjunct of US foreign and defence policy. Especially when that policy runs counter to Europe’s interests.

And the Afghan debacle is just that. If Afghanistan again becomes a base for terrorist organisations then it will be Europe—not America—that will be the primary target. The Taliban has promised it won’t happen. And they need aid and expertise to reconstruct their war-ravaged country. But one of the Taliban’s first acts upon entering Kabul was to release thousands of hardened Jihadists from Pul-e-charkhi Prison. Al Qaeeda is reported to have bases in at least 15 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces and rival ISIS is believed to have up to 10,000 members in the country.

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Afghanistan: Delusion and disgrace

The return of MPs to Westminster this week was a significant moment. Not for the abandoned people of Afghanistan, perhaps, whose immediate concerns probably do not include listening to the Prime Minister’s justifications for being absent from his post as Kabul fell. The needs of the Afghan people are as far removed from the Westminster circus as it is possible to imagine.

For while, for example, there is a real debate on how many asylum seekers this country should take, which will have enormous impact on the lives of those affected, Britain has never looked so peripheral in an issue affecting the transatlantic alliance.

The Prime Minister’s statement on Afghanistan was an exercise in window-dressing and back-covering, an attempt to evade responsibility while attempting to look serious and statesmanlike.

Delusion runs deep in England at present. Too many of us in Britain and America wrongly believe we can be better off by ourselves alone. That myth has been tested to destruction before. Let’s pray that we in this generation are not forced to learn the lesson all over again.

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Lib Dem councillors call for action on Afghan refugee crisis

Shropshire Lib Dems are joining councillors and activists across the country in calling on their councils and MPs for greater and faster action on the Afghan refugee crisis. Many councillors are lobbing their MPs, including Carshalton & Wallington. There is a row going on in Guilford, where the Lib Dems are getting on with the job but the Conservatives are trying to score political points. Elsewhere, there are some difficulties in councils acting refugees because of budget and housing constraints.

I am pleased and proud to live in a county that is welcoming to refugees. It is always a challenge to find housing and ensure the right level of support and independence for refugees. But we know that they settle well and become part of our community. With the experience of the Syrian Resettlement Programme (VPRS), we are ready to take many more but that will depend on a greater ambition and degree of humanity than the government is currently showing.

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Dick Newby slams Government over “casual” and “exruciatingly complacent” approach to Afghanistan

Lib Dem Lords leader Dick Newby laid bare the Prime Minister’s contradictory statements, a month apart, that there was “no path to victory for the Taliban” and that “this was the way we always knew it was going to go.”

While there were many questions to answer about the extent of our failures, he called for urgent, humanitarian action, again criticising the inadequacy of the Government’s scheme.

 

The full text of his speech is below:

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Layla speaks up for Afghanistan’s women and girls

Lib Dem Foreign Affairs spokesperson Layla Moran spoke up for women and girls in today’s debate, quoting a young Afghan woman who said “we just live to exist, nothing else.”

Daisy Cooper intervened to emphasise the point that the voices of Afghan women must be heard.

Layla also slammed the Government’s inadequate refugee plan, saying that it’s barely 7 people per constituency this year. The full text of her remarks is below:

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WATCH: Ed Davey’s Afghanistan speech: Boris Johnson is a national liabilty

Ed Davey had a tough slot today, coming just after Tom Tugendhat’s powerful speech.

He did well, though. He laid bare Boris Johnson’s share of the responsibility for what had happened:

I cannot hold President Biden to account in this House, but I can hold our own Government to account. Our Prime Minister and his Cabinet cannot escape their culpability for this disaster—for both the mistaken decision to withdraw, and how the withdrawal has turned into such a catastrophe. From the Prime Minister’s self-evident lack of influence and clout in Washington, to his negligent inability, yet again, to master his brief

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What can we expect the Lib Dems to say in today’s Parliamentary debate on Afghanistan?

Parliament returns to day to spend five short hours debating the crisis in Afghanistan.

What can we expect Liberal Democrats to be saying?

The first priority is about getting people to safety. Yesterday, Layla Moran tweeted that we should be taking at least 20,000 refugees, a figure based on what we had called on for Syrians and what the Canadians had proposed.

Crucially, she added that this had to be backed up by proper funding to local councils to resettle refugees and provide them with the support that they need.

Posted in Europe / International and Parliament | Also tagged and | 4 Comments

Britain must commit to taking Afghan refugees

The unfolding military conflict in Afghanistan has long been leading to a humanitarian crisis. As British and American troops leave the country, the Taliban has continued its offensive march, taking towns and cities almost at will. At the time of writing they have entered the capital and look set to destroy Afghanistan’s fragile but growing democracy and replace it with a brutal regime.

British troops are currently evacuating UK nationals and are encouraging those who risked everything by working with Coalition forces against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban to go through the resettlement scheme. This bureaucratic nightmare however can take months and even years to navigate, with the United States’ equivalent being even more complex. Without immediate action now, we are condemning those heroes and their families who risked everything to help our troops to the mercy of the Taliban.

Posted in Europe / International | Also tagged | 12 Comments
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