18 August 2021
Afghanistan Debate

Speaking in the emergency debate on the situation in Afghanistan, Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown calls on the Government to act to secure the safe evacuation of foreign and Afghan people whose lives are at risk due to their contact with NATO allies and to help with the rehabilitation of refugees as quickly as possible. 

Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (The Cotswolds) (Con)

In 2007, the then Labour Government sent a small cross-party group of Members of Parliament to Afghanistan, and I was one of them. We were in Lashkar Gah when a group of our soldiers came back, having lost one of their number, and we could see that the psychological stress on those soldiers was immense. I say to the Minister for Defence People and Veterans, my hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Leo Docherty), who is on the Front Bench today, “Please, do all you can to support our veterans at what is bound to be a really difficult time for them.”

We need to look at the short term and the long term in Afghanistan. In the short term, we need to get all the western people with passports out, we need to get out all whose lives are put at risk by their association with the British and the Americans, and we need to facilitate the resettlement of any refugees as quickly as possible.

In the medium and longer term, the British need to play a real part. We need a big diplomatic effort. The Prime Minister’s announcement today that he will lead a G7 meeting is of primary importance, but it is also important that we become realigned with our closest and largest ally, the United States, so that we again operate from the same page. We need to look at the UN and see what we can do on the Security Council to try to persuade the Chinese and the Russians not to use Afghanistan for their own narrow sectoral interests. We need to look at the frontline states—at countries such as Pakistan—to see how they have dealt with harbouring the Taliban and how they will move forward in dealing with refugees, perhaps through their onward transmission to further safe havens.

This is a dark day for Afghanistan. We will look at the Taliban and judge them by their actions, but I say to the British Government, “Please, start talking to the Taliban to see where there is interest so that we can influence those people and their behaviour.” Otherwise, if the Taliban start doing extremist things in Afghanistan, the Northern Alliance, which we went in largely to help, will re-emerge and a vicious civil war will break out in Afghanistan. That will make the whole thing far worse.

Where Britain does not lead with its values of democracy, tolerance, a good judicial system and a free press, whether in Afghanistan or elsewhere, the world is a poorer and nastier place. We owe it to the Afghans to redouble our diplomatic efforts in the weeks, months and years ahead to see what we can do to salvage a more sustainable future for Afghanistan.