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Boris Johnson rules out public inquiry into UK’s actions in Afghanistan

Boris Johnson leaves Downing Street ahead of his statement on Afghanistan in the House of Commons.
Boris Johnson leaves Downing Street ahead of his statement on Afghanistan in the House of Commons.

The Prime Minister has appeared to rule out the prospect of an independent formal inquiry into the UK Government’s conduct in Afghanistan.

Boris Johnson told a packed House of Commons it is an “illusion” to think Britain alone could have prevented the collapse of the country after the US withdrew its forces.

In an emergency sitting of parliament on Wednesday, he denied the UK Government had been unprepared for the Taliban takeover at the weekend.

Mr Johnson appeared to dismiss the suggestion of a public inquiry in response to a question from Tory MP Tobias Ellwood, a former captain in the British Army.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking during the debate on the situation in Afghanistan in the House of Commons, London, as MPs returned to Parliament from their summer break for an emergency sitting on Wednesday, three days after the country’s capital Kabul fell to the militants on Sunday.

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford was among those who called for a “future judge-led inquiry into the war in Afghanistan”.

In response to Mr Ellwood, the Prime Minister said: “There was an extensive review about the Afghan mission after the combat mission ended in 2014 and I believe that most of the key questions have already been extensively got into.”

Refugee resettlement scheme

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said the UK Government’s refugee resettlement scheme announced overnight “doesn’t go anywhere near far enough or fast enough”.

Under the new scheme, the UK will welcome up to 20,000 Afghan refugees over five years, with 5,000 resettled within its first year.

Mr Blackford said Afghan refugees should not have to wait up to five years for safety and pushed the government to welcome at least 35,000 t0 40,000 refugees to the UK.

He added: “The scale of this effort needs to match the scale of this humanitarian emergency.

“Three million people have been displaced – 80% of those fleeing their homes are women and children.

“These are the people now crying out for your help.”

An Afghan child in a displaced persons camp.

Mr Johnson was heckled by angry MPs, including senior Tory members from within his own benches, as they sat shoulder-to-shoulder in the packed chamber.

There were cries of disbelief when he rejected claims the events of the weekend had caught the government unawares.

He said planning had been under way for a number of months and that a decision to commission an emergency handling centre at Kabul airport was taken two weeks ago.

“I think it would be fair to say that the events in Afghanistan have unfolded and the collapse has been faster than even the Taliban predicted”, he told the House.

‘Breeding ground for terrorists’

However, former Prime Minister Theresa May said she found it “incomprehensible and worrying” that the UK was not able to bring together an “alternative alliance” of countries to provide support to sustain the government in Afghanistan.

She warned of the terror threat posed by the withdrawal from the country and said it was “absolutely essential for us to recognise the probability that Afghanistan will once again become a breeding ground for the terrorists who seek to destroy our way of life”.

Former prime minister Theresa May speaking during the debate on the situation in Afghanistan in the House of Commons, London.

Sir Keir Starmer was among those queuing up to launched an attack on the Prime Minister who he accused of “complacency”.

He told MPs there had been a “failure of preparation” by the government for which Mr Johnson bore a “heavy responsibility”.

The Labour leader added: “We do not turn our backs on friends at their time of need. We owe an obligation for the people of Afghanistan.”

However, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, dismissed criticism from the Labour leader of his handling of the situation in Afghanistan.

He said his opponent has no “credible” alternatives to the government’s approach.

‘Terribly difficult decision’

Andrew Bowie, Conservative MP for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, shared the experience of an Afghan man he is assisting who worked for the British Government.

He told the Commons the man is “sitting with his entire family at the airport in Kabul” – his wife, four children and elderly mother.

He said: “His wife, his kids and he were offered safe passage out of the country but was told his elderly and vulnerable mother would not be allowed to travel with them.

Hundreds of people gather outside the international airport in Kabul, Afghanistan.

“Late on Monday night he had to make a choice…to leave with his wife and children and leave his ageing and vulnerable mother behind to whatever fate might befall her, or to stay behind.

“He took the terribly difficult decision to stay. The last I heard was that he was still assisting British troops at the airport with the help of a charity that his brother works for, is reapplying for ARAP (Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy) status for his entire family.

“The man was only in the airport because he was assissting British nationals evacuate the country.”

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