Like you, I have been deeply moved by the scenes we have witnessed and share the concerns that have been expressed for the people caught up in the humanitarian crisis that continues to unfold.
My thoughts are first and foremost with the families of the 457 British service men and women who have lost their lives in Afghanistan, including those from our own community, as well as the many thousands of veterans who live with the physical and mental scars of the war on a daily basis. Their sacrifice has not been in vain and we all live in a safer country today thanks to their heroic service.
It is essential that the international community come together and take a unified approach on Afghanistan, both in terms of the future of the country and in working to prevent a humanitarian and refugee crisis.
Over the last few days, I have attended briefings with the Secretary of State for Defence, the Foreign Secretary and the Home Secretary, who have each covered in depth the actions that each of their departments are taking and the cross-Government approach to this unprecedented crisis. I have been reassured by the extent of the operation in place, part since mid-April and I will continue to attend such briefings to ensure I am fully up to date as the situation evolves.
As you will be aware, Parliament was recalled from its Summer Recess on Wednesday 18th August 2021 to debate the issue, during which The Prime Minister updated the House of Commons on the Government’s five-point plan to support the people of Afghanistan.
Although, as a Government Whip, I was unable to make a formal contribution, it was an immense privilege to be present in the Commons Chamber for much of the debate on Wednesday and to listen to many of the heartfelt speeches made by Members of Parliament, a number of whom have previously served in Afghanistan.
The UK is deploying hundreds of defence personnel and teams of officials (many now in Afghanistan) to repatriate British Nationals and resettle Afghan staff who have put their lives at risk in support of our country, with more than 2,052 Afghan staff having already arrived in the UK.
The Government will also use the UK’s Presidency of the G7 to coordinate the international response and will host summits of both G7 Leaders and Foreign Ministers in the coming days.
In addition, the Prime Minister has announced that the UK is to double the amount of humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan to £286 million, create new bespoke legal routes for up to 20,000 Afghan refugees to be resettled in the UK (in addition to existing routes already in operation), the suspension of migrant removals back to Afghanistan and is urging our allies to hold off on prematurely recognising any new regime and take a unified approach to Afghanistan.
Whilst the situation in Afghanistan continues to develop at rapid pace, I want to assure you that the Government remains committed to Afghanistan and will continue to use every diplomatic and humanitarian lever to help the Afghan people choose the best of all their possible futures.