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Afghanistan: Scottish MPs demand urgent action from UK Government

Hundreds of people gather outside the international airport in Kabul, Afghanistan on Tuesday, August 17.
Hundreds of people gather outside the international airport in Kabul, Afghanistan on Tuesday, August 17.

The UK Government is facing accusations it has left those in Afghanistan “at the mercy of the Taliban” ahead of MPs returning to Westminster.

MPs had not been due to return from their summer recess until September 6, but the decision to recall parliament was taken after pressure from opposition parties.

Boris Johnson’s government is expected to come under fierce criticism for the way the crisis has been handled when MPs debate the crisis on Wednesday morning.

British troops are racing against the clock to rescue those still inside the country, following the Taliban’s rapid takeover and the dramatic fall of the Western-backed Afghan government.

‘Catastrophic failure’

Aberdeen South MP Stephen Flynn described the situation as a “catastrophic failure of western foreign policy” with people “left at the mercy of the Taliban”.

Harrowing images shared on Monday appeared to show two people falling to their deaths as desperate Afghans clung to the side of a moving US military plane leaving Kabul airport.

The SNP politician said the footage – along with emotional testimonies from women and girls fearing for their future – should “haunt the UK, US and our allies”.

Afghans who are displaced from Kunduz and Takhar provinces due to fighting between Taliban and Afghan forces live in temporary shelters at a camp in Kabul.

He added: “We must now see urgent action to ensure that all those who offered support to Western forces over two decades are given an immediate route out of Afghanistan and to safety – we cannot continue to fail to act.”

The Prime Minister is pushing for a meeting of world leaders at the “earliest opportunity” as he looks to co-ordinate the international response to the crisis.

He raised the idea with German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a call on Tuesday and did the same during talks with French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday.

Downing Street confirmed the UK wants the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) – which, as well as Britain, includes the US, China, France and Russia – to meet this week.

Millions ‘fearing for their lives’

Jamie Stone, Liberal Democrat defence spokesman, blamed the rapid collapse of the Afghan government on the “decisions taken by President Biden, the UK Government and other coalition forces”.

The President, who has come under fierce criticism for the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan this year, said he stands “squarely behind” his decision. 

In a televised address to the nation from the White House, he said he will not repeat mistakes of the past and did not regret his decision to proceed with the withdrawal.

Mr Stone, who is also MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, said leaders in these countries should hang their heads in shame” at the unfolding crisis.

United States President Joe Biden delivers remarks on Afghanistan in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC. Afghanistan’s capital in Kabul fell to the Taliban.

He added: “Across Afghanistan right now, millions of innocent people will be fearing for their lives.

“Women and girls will be terrified that their liberties and rights are about to be permanently extinguished.”

‘His silence is deafening’

Mr Stone called on Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who was on holiday in Crete when the Taliban swept to power, to “come out of hiding and urgently update the nation on plans to evacuate all British citizens and Afghan staff from Afghanistan”.

He added: “His silence is deafening and an insult to all those who have loved ones still in the country.”

Speaking on Tuesday, Mr Raab conceded he would not have left the UK if he had known what would unfold in Afghanistan over the weekend.

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is seen arriving at Downing Street after his holiday in Crete.

The Foreign Secretary was seen relaxing on a beach on the Greek island on Sunday, the same day members of the Taliban entered Kabul, according to a report in The Telegraph.

Stewart Hosie, Dundee East MP, described the collapse of the Afghan government as a “huge shock”, which has left “large numbers of people” awaiting evacuation.

The SNP politician, who hopes to speak during Wednesday’s debate, said the UK Government needs to “intensify evacuation efforts” for UK citizens and Afghan citizens who have worked for the UK.

He added: “Secondly they need to open up and take more refugees from Afghanistan, people who may not have worked for the UK but who did things that will put them at risk from the Taliban. These things need to be done urgently.

“We need to make sure that if we ever go into one of those conflict zones again, that as much time, effort and money is put into building the peace and into recovery, as it is to actually fighting in any conflict.”

‘Deep and searching questions’

Andrew Bowie, MP for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, said the focus for the UK Government has to be on “getting as many people who did support us and assisted us in our brave efforts over the years out of that country”.

He added: “I think from many of my colleagues, who’ve been very forthright over the past few days, they will be asking deep and searching questions of the government, and the strategy of not just of this government but the western alliance moving forward regarding Afghanistan – and indeed our strategy in dealing with organisations like the Taliban, al-Qaeda, ISIS, around the world in the years to come.”

Pete Wishart, SNP MP for Perth and North Perthshire, said the UK Government must meet its responsibilites to those wishing to flee the country.

Taliban fighters are seen on the back of a vehicle in Kabul, Afghanistan.

His party has called for a four-nations summit amid the growing humanitarian crisis in the country and provide safe routes to resettlement for refugees.

Mr Wishart added: “This is a tragedy that is entirely on us in the west and it is now incumbent on us to do everything possible to meet the humanitarian challege that will undoubtedly now come our way.”

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