Tag Archives: afghanistan

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.

https://twitter.com/LaylaMoran/status/1427664216853565443?s=20

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

Afghanistan enters a new phase in its tragedy

Afghanistan entered a new phase in its tragedy today, with the Taliban on the outskirts of Kabul. Over forty years of war have led us back to “year zero” once more.

Events have moved quickly. Only two months ago, Dr Abdullah Abdullah, members of the Afghan Civic Democrats and the UNAMA talked to Lib Dems Overseas and LIBG members about their hopes to reach an inclusive political settlement acceptable to the Afghan people.

The blame game can be shared out amongst all those on the losing side: The Afghan government for its gross corruption that siphoned off hundreds of millions that would have otherwise – if wisely spent – helped those whose poverty and ignorance have provided fertile recruiting ground for the Taliban; the Biden administration that lamely followed the disastrous US policy of speedy non-conditions-based withdrawal by the Trump administration which included the criminal act of arm-twisting the Afghan government to release 5,000 seasoned Taliban fighters from prison (including the insurgency leader who then led the Taliban assault on Herat city); and the international community for pouring billions into the country’s coffers while not tackling corruption properly and wanting to believe too much what it was being told. And much more of course.

Posted in Europe / International | 21 Comments

What should Liberal Democrats be saying about Afghanistan?

Ed Davey called for Parliament to be brought back from its Summer holidays to discuss the growing crisis in Afghanistan. His comments two days ago seem even more urgent now as the Taliban advance on Kabul in an entirely predictable consequence of the withdrawal of US and UK troops from the country.

I am not a fan of military action. There have been very few deployments of our troops I have been in favour of because we often seem to ultimately make things a lot worse. There have been a few exceptions to this, for humanitarian purposes, such as intervention in Kosovo, but it does take a lot to persuade me of the need for it.

On this occasion, our withdrawal before there is a strong enough political and physical  infrastructure to bring stability,  and a better life for the people has put the population in huge danger. Not only that, but the Taliban has form for stoking international terrorism so their presence makes the world less safe.

Joe Biden is in a difficult position. Surely he must know that Afghanistan and the world have become less safe because of the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw US forces, but he is basically worried  of Trump in three years’ time if he sends them back in.  The Trump administration’s peace agreement with the Taliban in February last year was a disgrace with no guarantees on human rights or even a mention of women’s rights. Subsequent talks aimed at finding a political settlement for Afghanistan between the Government and the Taliban had few women in the room.

The Government of Afghanistan’s record on human rights is far from exemplary. Amnesty’s 2020 report on the country said:

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 34 Comments

“War. What is it good for?” On Kabul and the failure of war

“War, what is it good for?” Edwin Starr and many others sang the anthem of the beginning of the 1970s. It picked up the mood of the moment. I recall as an underage drinker roaring out “Absolutely nothin’!” in response to the question at weekend discos. We were all talking about the war in Vietnam, not then aware of war in Cambodia. But most of what I had learnt about war was from history books and the occasional classroom lecture. It was distant, even anodyne.

This August, we face what is being described “Biden’s Saigon moment”. Kabul could fall with days and one of the mightiest powers in the world, the USA, is beating a hasty retreat from three decades of occupation. Behind the retreating armies, women will lose rights that many have only just begun to exercise. Democracy will be crushed under the wheels of departing miltary trucks.

The loss of reputation of western powers to solve world problems by shooting and bombing will be more than collateral damage from the withdrawal. One of the most significant weapons in the armoury of the USA and Britain, war, will have again been shown to be one of the least effective solutions to world problems.

This question has been in my mind since before sixth form. War? What is it good for?

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 12 Comments

Ed Davey: Government is failing Afghan people

The idea of the Taliban getting closer to power in Afghanistan is very worrying indeed. That it comes at a time when we are withdrawing troops and slashing foreign aid by 78% shows astonishing irresponsibility on behalf of our government.

You can’t just walk away and leave people in the lurch as we are doing.

Ed Davey has spoken of his concerns about the advance of the Taliban:

As the Taliban take swathes of territory on their advance towards Kabul, millions of women and girls are facing the prospect of a new era of injustice, inequality and brutality – while the

Posted in News | Also tagged , and | 12 Comments

World Review: Capitol Hill riots, Iran withdrawal, ice cream wars, China and the Taliban

In this weekend’s column, Tom Arms reviews the inquiry into the Capitol Hill Riots and whether the Republicans are right to stay away. The American withdrawal from Iraq after 18 years will allow Tehran to expand its influence and move up to the border with Israel. Ice cream producer Cherry Garcia is crossing spoons with the Israeli government over its decision to stop sales of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream in the Occupied Territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, with a predictable reaction from the Israeli government. Beijing has made it clear that it is sticking to its policy of non-interference in other in countries’ domestic affairs, despite meeting with the Taliban this week.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , and | 2 Comments

World Review: Cuba, climate change, the Taliban and foreign aid

Cuba may be reaching the end of its search for Utopian Socialism – shop shelves are empty and people are hungry. Ten years from now 2021 will be known as the year that the world was dragged kicking and screaming to the reality of climate change. The Taliban continues its march to victory with the capture of a key border crossing in the southeast corner on the Afghan-Pakistan border. Boris Johnson’s win on foreign aid this week was the world’s loss.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , and | 14 Comments

World Review: A president assassinated, a president suing, a president withdrawing and Covid soaring

In this weekend’s review, LDV’s foreign correspondent Tom Arms talks of events in Haiti, a basket case of a country whose presidents tend to come to an untimely end, including this week President Moise.

Joe Biden is continuing to withdraw from Afghanistan. Donald Trump is suing Facebook. Both difficult strategies.

The delta variant of Covid-19 is causing cases to rise rapidly around the world, especially in countries with low levels of vaccination. Vaccinating Africa must become a priority to save lives in the Southern and Northern Hemispheres.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , and | 2 Comments

Webinar: will the tragedy of Afghanistan become Europe’s tragedy?

If peace negotiations collapse and the Taliban take power in Afghanistan, the UK and Europe may well be faced again with another wave of mass migration (are we really going to turn away women and their families at deadly risk from the Taliban?), a strengthened base for the export of terrorism (Taliban have not broken links with Al Qaeda, CIA reckons even US at risk again within three years) and continued supply of opium to European youth from the largest producer in the world.

Dr Abdullah Abdullah, a figure well-known in the UK who is the Afghan Government’s chief negotiator for the intra-Afghan peace talks with the Taliban and former Chief Executive Officer of the Unity Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (2014-2020) will be addressing UK Liberal Democrats on the latest state of play 18.30-20.00hrs this Monday 7th June. You are encouraged to register for this LIBG/Lib Dems Overseas event at the Paddy Ashdown Forum.

Dr Abdullah Abdullah will be joined by members of the Afghan Civic Democrats, a parliamentary grouping in the Wolesi Jirga (lower house), with whom Lib Dems Overseas have a strong association, as well as the Head of Office from the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, direct from Kandahar/Helmand province. The Lib Dems response will be given by Baroness Northover, our Foreign Affairs spokesperson in the Lords.

Posted in Europe / International and Events | Also tagged | 2 Comments

We must stand ready to act if Trump tantrums risk tipping Afghanistan into chaos

Embed from Getty Images

President Trump’s ‘termination’ of Defense Secretary Mark Esper should come as no surprise (given the terminator’s temperament – and that’s before his convincing defeat at the hands of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris). Because Secretary Esper was ready to resign in the event of his Commander-in-Chief’s electoral victory. He’d already written the letter.

His reasons why seem clear enough. Having ordered his troops back to base, he made public his refusal to condone even the possibility of their deployment on the streets of D.C., least of all to gas peaceful protestors for a photo opportunity outside of a church whose Bishop denounced the abhorrent abuse of power that had enabled it. President-elect Biden has drawn upon his faith – whatever your own beliefs – several times since his election, citing phrases of the powerful book that President Trump wielded as a prop so disgracefully.

But President Trump’s reason for sacking Esper now seems less clear. Most assume petty vengeance, a President affecting what little power he has left to ‘take out’ those who dared oppose him. A sign he is still President, in his own mind, by yielding his authority, perhaps. Or worst, an indication he plans to fulfil a campaign promise and is in full preparation for a 2024 campaign. To ‘End the Endless Wars’. Bring the troops home. An impossible prospect, at present, that would leave the future President Biden in a bind. To reverse, or abandon the region?

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 26 Comments

UK complicit in biggest US cover-up since Vietnam

It took a three-year legal battle for the Washington Post to force the US government to release the ‘Afghanistan papers’, a set of lessons-learned reports on the war so far.

The Afghanistan Papers not only reveal systematic lying by the US and UK governments to the general public about the aims and progress of the war, they reveal gratuitous mass killing of civilians in the policy fog.

As if that wasn’t enough to cast opprobrium on the military effort and the capability of the forces involved, the Afghanistan Papers reveal extraordinary confusion amongst senior military personnel, and a war without …

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | Also tagged | 7 Comments

Observations of an ex pat: Afghanistan on the brink?

Afghanistan is in serious danger of a major outbreak of peace. Or is it?

Certainly the signs are that the US is about to announce an historic deal with their foes the Taliban. The basic bones are that the US and NATO-led forces will withdraw. In return the Taliban will promise to never again allow Afghanistan to become a terrorist base.

Withdrawal from the 17-year-long  $1 trillion Afghan war has been one of the key goals of President Trump. It was also a political target of President Obama. The problem is how to exit without leaving behind a vacuum of the kind that led to the rise in the 1990s of the Taliban and their Al Qaeeda guests.

The question has been exercising the minds of a succession of American diplomats since on-off negotiations started with the Taliban in 2011. During the Obama Administration these contacts controversially resulted in the release of five Taliban terrorists from Guantanamo Bay in exchange for Sergeant Robert Bergdahl.

The talks were held in the Qatari capital Doha where the Taliban set up a semi-official embassy paid for by the Qatari government. After the prisoner exchange the talks slipped into limbo with only the occasional diplomatic chat as the Taliban refused to deal with the Afghan government whom they called “American puppets. ” Neither would they talk seriously with the US without a date for the withdrawal of troops.

Then in November it was announced that American and Taliban negotiators were once again having serious discussions in Doha. The man heading up the American team appears tailor-made for the job. Ambassador Zalmay Khalizad was born and raised in Afghanistan and educated in America. His posts have included ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 1 Comment

Tom Brake writes: My trip to the Calais Jungle

 

I visited the Calais Jungle a week ago, where around 4,000 people live in terribly squalid conditions. My trip was organised by staff from Lib Dem HQ, who had collected donations so we were able to distribute water, food and sanitary products.

It was a shocking experience to see the dreadful conditions people are living in. The Jungle is worse than a shanty town, with very few facilities.

There was no sign of water being provided and the people we met clutched gratefully the bottles we had transported.  Shoes, clothes and dry foods were also in demand. Portable toilets are provided by aid organisations while the local authorities seem to turn a blind eye to the conditions in the camp, simply wishing it would go away. I was told the French authorities don’t provide any help apart from a Centre where mobile phones can be charged and a hot meal is available. If someone is badly injured the local hospital bandages them up.

Posted in News | Also tagged , , , and | 17 Comments

LibLink: Tim Farron on Chilcot

At the Huffington Post, Tim Farron is decrying the delay to the Chilcot report into the Iraq war.

The publication of the Chilcot report is crucial and the delays are unacceptable – we cannot afford to continue walking in the dark.

The underlying issue which we need to understand and question is the alignment of British foreign policy with American priorities. Has Blair and Thatcher’s determination to maintain “the special relationship” benefitted our country? Should we continue in this vein? The Chilcot report, when it is eventually published, must force us to learn lessons for the years ahead: at the moment we are in limbo. In a year when the country will decide who rules for the next five, this is unacceptable.

Posted in LibLink | Also tagged and | 3 Comments

Clegg: senior Labour ex-ministers should give evidence to UK torture inquiry

Nick Clegg Q&A 12Last week came the revelations from the US Senate Intelligence Committee about the extent of the CIA’s use of “enhanced interrogation techniques”.

It immediately promoted questions about what the then Labour Government knew about what was happening on the watch of its closest ally. Nick Clegg has called for senior ex-ministers to give evidence to Parliament’s intelligence and security committee (ISC) on what they knew about torture conducted by UK or US intelligence agencies in Iraq or Afghanistan, as The Guardian reports:

The deputy prime minister said

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LibLink: Paddy Ashdown: Afghanistan war is textbook for how to lose this kind of conflict

rally paddy 01Paddy has been writing in the Mirror about the Afghanistan war? Was it all worth it and could we, should we, have done things differently? What can we learn for the future?

First of all, Paddy writes, we did some good:

So has it all been for nothing?

No. There are children – and especially girls – going to school in Afghanistan who wouldn’t be there if British troops had not risked their lives to give them the chance. Democracy, though frail, has taken root.

There is growing prosperity in some areas, markets in previous ghost towns, new roads that never existed and, perhaps most important of all, a knowledge of how things can be better, planted in people’s minds.

Posted in LibLink | Also tagged and | 6 Comments

Lord Eric Avebury writes…Polio and Terrorism

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative, set up by the World Health Organisation (WHO),has reduced the number paralysed by polio from 350,000 in 1988 to 405 in 2013, and the number of countries where the disease is endemic has been cut from 125 to just 3 –Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. But progress has come to a grinding halt, with Pakistan reporting 174 new cases so far this year out of 193 worldwide.

The WHO says there is a high risk that this highly infectious disease will spread to other parts of the world, paralysing many of its victims.

Three quarters of all cases are reported from two lawless areas of Pakistan, Khyber Pakhtunkwa (KP) and the misleadingly named Federally Administered Tribal Areas. In these provinces terrorists call the shots, intimidating and murdering those who don’t agree with their fundamentalist brand of Islam.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 2 Comments

LibLink: Sir Robert Smith – We must not turn our back on Afghanistan

At a workshop on child rights at French Cultural Centre, Kabul, AfghanistanSir Robert Smith, Lib Dem MP for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine and Co-Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Afghanistan, has written this week about the need for Britain, as our direct military involvement comes to an end, to ensure we keep our promise to maintain support for a developing Afghanistan.

… the attacks of September the 11th brought home the fact that what happened in that far away country made a difference back here.

Posted in LibLink | Also tagged , , and | 8 Comments

Lord (Eric) Avebury writes…Pakistan’s Army stands firm against the Taliban

The Pakistan Army’s Inter Service Public Relations (ISPR) has condemned Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) Chief Syed Munawar Hassan’s statement in which he called former Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) Chief Hakimullah Mehsud a martyr.

In fact, Mehsud was a mass murderer, motivated by implacable religious hatred, and his killing by a US drone on November 1 was fully deserved. Under his leadership the TTP slaughtered Pakistani soldiers and civilians, men women and children indiscriminately. He targeted Shia Muslims, of whom 700 have been killed so far this year.

The objective of the TTP is to overthrow the state of Pakistan and to replace it with …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 12 Comments

Nick Clegg and Paddy Ashdown win the argument on Afghan interpreters

The BBC reports:

Up to 600 Afghan interpreters who worked alongside British troops are to be given the right to live in the UK, government sources have confirmed.

The plan marks a climbdown from ministers who had decided they should not get the same UK resettlement rights as interpreters in the Iraq conflict.

Afghan interpreters who worked on the front line for a year or more will initially be offered a five-year visa.

This is something, as we reported 3 weeks ago, that Nick Clegg and Paddy Ashdown have been arguing for.

Earlier this week, Paddy Ashdown said that it was Downing Street …

Posted in News | Also tagged , and | 8 Comments

LibLink…Paddy Ashdown: Let us not leave Afghanistan with this final gesture of betrayal and dishonour

Paddy Ashdown has written a hard-hitting article for the Yorkshire Post in which he implores the Government to give Afghan interpreters who have helped UK troops the right to come to the UK.

The interpreters and their families live under threat from the Taliban:

These men are different from our troops in this sense: our troops can be sure that their families are home, secure and safe, in Britain, whereas they cannot.

Their families live, day in and day out, threatened by mortal threat from the Taliban in Afghan society.

Our troops come home every six or nine months, whereas they do not. They

Posted in LibLink | Also tagged , and | 1 Comment

Nick Clegg and Paddy Ashdown say that Afghan interpreters should have the right to live in the UK

Almost exactly four years ago, Nick Clegg, as an opposition party leader, led a debate in Parliament in which the Labour Government was defeated on its plans to restrict the rights of Gurkhas to settle in the UK. David Cameron was keen to get himself into the photos with Joanna Lumley at the time.

Four years on, and Clegg and Cameron have opposing views on whether Afghan interpreters who helped our soldiers in that country should be allowed to settle here. Today’s Times (£) reports that the Prime Minister, along with Theresa May and Philip Hammond are against allowing …

Posted in Europe / International and News | Also tagged , , and | 3 Comments

LibLink… Paddy Ashdown: It’s not a fight against “us”, it’s Islam vs Islam

Mali rebel - License Some rights reserved by MagharebiaIn an article in today’s Times, Paddy Ashdown concedes that David Cameron is probably right that the so-called War on Terror (a term Paddy dislikes) will go on for another decade. Paddy argues that we need to recognise that the way western countries have been operating doesn’t work. What is needed now is to recognise that the fight is between different factions of Islam. It should be our job to help out moderate governments where we can.

He outlined why the “invasions, main battle armies and occupation” of

Posted in Europe / International and LibLink | Also tagged , , , and | 5 Comments

LibLink: Paddy – withdraw British troops from Afghanistan now

Writing in today’s Times (£), Paddy Ashdown says that Afghanistan is ‘not worth the life of one more soldier’:

The war in Afghanistan is lost and not worth the life of one more British soldier, Paddy Ashdown writes in The Times today. In a stark assessment of the 11-year campaign that has cost 438 British lives, Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon urges Britain to pull out its troops as quickly as “decently” possible. The intervention comes as David

Posted in LibLink and News | Also tagged , and | 10 Comments

LibLink: Ming Campbell – Afghanistan: We have to see it through till 2014

Former Lib Dem leader Sir Ming Campbell has taken to the pages of the Independent to set out his views on British troop involvement in Afghanistan, and the need to be realistic about the speed at which British troops can be withdrawn from Helmand. Here’s an excerpt:

It is naive to suggest that, even if we began today, we could be out by Christmas. Withdrawal of nearly 10,000 troops and their equipment is not achieved by waving a wand. During any withdrawal, forces are at their most vulnerable. What additional protection measures would be required? What equipment would we be able

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Opinion: the undignified spectacle at the G8

Imagine the scene. It’s a dirty whitewashed three-storey government building in the capital city, surrounded by high walls with US helicopters parked around. Inside sit several US generals and two Europeans, in the dusty heat. The war they are there to discuss is secretly assumed to go on for 25 years. They all know they cannot win it despite superior air power and unlimited cash. They had all given it their best shot with use of terrible weapons. Neighbouring countries have been mercilessly bombed, and ushering in governments very unfriendly to the US and the West.

It was time to find …

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | 3 Comments

Opinion: Support for emerging democracies – we’ll do it our way

Speaking at the recent Munich Security Conference, US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton said “Americans and Europeans must send a clear and common message to despots that they must respect the rights of their people….America and Europe stand shoulder to shoulder.”

However, the UK role in encouraging emerging democracies must be determined through a process of working closer with the EU and by identifying limited areas in which tangible gains can be made through shared resources. That is to say that we do what we can with our European partners to achieve the best results within our areas of influence. Continually …

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Michael Moore MP’s Westminster Notes – Scotland better off in Union

Every week, Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore writes a column for local newspapers in his constituency. These are the highlights of the last two editions. 

Afghanistan

 The loss of six young soldiers in Afghanistan last week shocked and saddened the whole country and was a grave reminder of the huge sacrifice made by our armed forces in one of the most dangerous places in the world. The work of our men and women in Afghanistan is absolutely vital for the security of the UK and the freedom of the Afghan people and the deaths of these young men remind us …

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PMQs: Lest we forget

A different Prime Minister’s Questions review this week. Often, the Prime Minister prefaces his first answer with a tribute to fallen service personnel. I have mentioned these tributes a few times in the course of these write-ups over the last (nearly) two years.

It seems appropriate to devote the whole of this week’s review solely to those who have died fighting for us, as we pass the milestone of 400 troops killed in Afghanistan with a particularly bloody incident.

Whatever our views of the right or the wrongs of our involvements overseas, I think most people agree that our service personnel do …

Posted in PMQs | 1 Comment
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