Two decades of western support to create an alternative to a Taliban controlled Afghanistan have come to nothing. The collapse of those Afghan forces trained and armed to defend a more liberal future has cast millions of Afghans, particularly women, to a more brutal future. Clearly the assessments on resilience of the Afghan forces were wrong.
China and Russia will likely move swiftly to recognize the new government and draw Afghanistan into their sphere of influence.
Meanwhile, President Biden, looking bereft and weak, may endorse the view that America should or can no longer be the defender of freedom around the world but instead focus on America first, substituting soft power possibilities for hard power realities.
That path leads to disaster for the values of freedom and liberty that have been hallmarks of the post-World War Two period for so much of the world.
Today, the Prime Minister has been outlining plans to host a virtual meeting of the G7 to coordinate an international response, emphasising the importance of the international community working together on the long-term future of Afghanistan to tackle the extremist threat and address the humanitarian emergency there.
The Government is also calling for emergency NATO and UN Security Council meetings as we use every diplomatic lever at our disposal – it is vital that our approach is on a joint rather than on a unilateral basis. The Prime Minister has spoken to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and UN Secretary General António Guterres and called for meetings of NATO’s North Atlantic Council and the UN Security Council to take place as soon as possible to respond to the latest developments in Afghanistan. The Prime Minister also spoke to US President Biden yesterday, French President Macron and German Chancellor Merkel.
The Government is also working with our international partners to hold the Taliban to account on terrorism, human rights, and protections for women, girls, and minorities. We have made it clear that the Taliban must protect and uphold human rights, including those of women, girls, and minorities – and that they can expect to face sanctions or the suspension of Overseas Development Assistance if they commit human rights abuses or host terrorist organisations.
The UK remains committed to Afghanistan – we have provided more than £100 million in aid to Afghanistan this year and the Prime Minister announced today that there will be new aid funding which will take this to £286 million with immediate effect. The Government is working with our international partners to ensure that we continue to provide humanitarian support to the Afghan people and it is absolutely vital that the UN leads a comprehensive international humanitarian effort.
The Government is establishing a new route for Afghan citizens - prioritising women and girls - who have been forced to flee their home or face threats of persecution from the Taliban to set up home in the UK permanently. This is in addition to existing programmes and routes already established and in operation.
The Prime Minister has today outlined the steps being taken to support Afghan citizens by:
- Establishing the new Afghanistan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme to resettle thousands of Afghan women and children under one of the most generous resettlement schemes in our country’s history. This new route is modelled on the successful Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme, which resettled 20,000 Syrian refugees over a seven-year period from 2014 to 2021.
- The Afghanistan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme will prioritise women and girls, and religious and other minorities, who are most at risk of human rights abuses and dehumanising treatment by the Taliban. The UK is working with international partners to develop a system to identify those most at risk and resettle them, ensuring help goes to those that need it.
- This new route is separate from, and in addition to, the existing safe and legal routes, which include:
- The Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP). This route offers any current or former locally employed staff who are assessed to be under serious threat to life priority relocation to the UK. 5,000 former Afghan staff and their family members are expected to be relocated to the UK by the end of this year under ARAP; so far under this programme, the Government has returned 306 British nationals, 2,052 former Afghan staff and their families in the UK with a further 2,000 Afghan applications completed and many more being processed. Since 2013, we have resettled over 3,300 Afghan staff and their families in the UK.
- Asylum and the Points-Based Immigration system. The Government has also provided thousands of Afghans asylum in the UK and many Afghan nationals have come to the UK to work and study under the Points-Based Immigration system.
The Government’s ambition is to welcome up to 5,000 Afghans to the UK under the new Afghanistan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme in its first year, with up to a total of 20,000 in the long-term. This is in addition to the 5,000 Afghans we expect to relocate to the UK this year under the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy. The complex picture on the ground means there will be significant challenges delivering the scheme, but the Government is working at speed to address these obstacles.
This new route is in line with the Government’s New Plan for Immigration, which prioritises those most in need, and seeks to make the system fairer by protecting and supporting those in genuine need of asylum. The Government is clear that the new route will not compromise on national security and any person arriving on the route will have to pass the same strict security checks as those resettled through other schemes.
Finally, we are supporting the safe departure of British nationals and Afghans by deploying 900 troops and civilian personnel to provide protection and support to evacuating British Nationals and Afghan staff. They will provide force protection and logistical support for the relocation of British nationals as well as Afghan interpreters, staff, and their families.
The Government is supporting British nationals returning to the UK with a Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) rapid deployment team that has been deployed to Kabul specifically trained to deal with crisis situations. They will work alongside Ambassador Laurie Bristow, who has remained in Kabul throughout, to support British nationals in Afghanistan to return safely to the UK. The Prime Minister has spoken to the Ambassador and Brigadier Dan Blanchford, who is leading the evacuation from Kabul airport, where he said that although difficult, the situation had stabilised since the weekend and staff on the ground are doing all they can to accelerate the rate of return of people who are evacuating.