Afghanistan: Parliament recalled amid Tory criticism of government silence

‘We haven’t heard from the foreign secretary in about a week despite this being the biggest single policy disaster since Suez’, says senior Tory

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Sunday 15 August 2021 16:02
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Smoke seen rising in Kabul as US embassy destroys sensitive documents

Parliament has been recalled for one day on Wednesday, amid growing criticism of the failure of western governments to halt the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.

MPs have been brought back from their summer holidays to debate the crisis, with Boris Johnson also leading an emergency Cobra meeting on Sunday afternoon following the dramatic events in Kabul.

Dominic Raab, the under-fire foreign secretary, is believed to be returning from a holiday, as the crisis deepens.

He tweeted he had “shared my deep concerns” with the Afghan foreign minister, adding: “Critical that the international community is united in telling the Taliban that the violence must end and human rights must be protected.”

Labour had demanded a recall, while the Liberal Democrats are calling on the prime minister to host a “Westminster leaders crisis meeting” on the Afghanistan situation.

Senior Conservatives are turning on the prime minister over his inaction, after he insisted the UK is hamstrung following the US pullout from Kabul.

Tom Tugendhat, the chair of the Commons foreign affairs committee, attacked “the biggest single policy disaster since Suez” – and questioned the invisibility of Mr Raab.

“I don’t know what is in the works because we haven’t heard from the foreign secretary in about a week despite this being the biggest single policy disaster since Suez,” he said.

Johnny Mercer, the former defence minister, said: “I never thought I’d see the day, either as a serviceman or as a member of the Conservative Party, where we would essentially surrender to the Taliban and leave these people to their fate – but that day has come.”

A No 10 source said Mr Johnson was seeking a recall of parliament to discuss the crisis, with Wednesday quickly confirmed as the date by Lindsay Hoyle, the Commons speaker.

Earlier, Keir Starmer said the crisis is “deeply shocking and seems to be worsening by the hour”.

“The government has been silent while Afghanistan collapses, which let’s be clear will have ramifications for us here in the UK,” the Labour leader said.

“We need Parliament recalled so the government can update MPs on how it plans to work with allies to avoid a humanitarian crisis and a return to the days of Afghanistan being a base for extremists whose purpose will be to threaten our interests, values and national security.”

Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat leader, “We must not conclude that this rapid collapse was inevitable. It was not. Today, our leaders should all hang their heads in shame.”

The Taliban entered Kabul from all sides, amid expectations that the Afghan president Ashraf Ghani will give up power to allow an interim government – led by the Taliban – to be formed.

Mr Tugendhat added: “The real danger is that we are going to see every female MP murdered, we are going to see ministers strung up on street lamps.”

Tobias Ellwood, the Conservative chair of the Commons defence committee, condemned the western retreat as “completely humiliating” and predicted a “humanitarian disaster”.

But he went further, amid fears that allowing Afghanistan to disintegrate into a failed state will pave the way for the return of al-Qaeda, which carried out the devastating 2001 attack on New York.

“I would not be surprised if we see another attack on the scale of 9/11, almost to bookend what happened 20 years ago, as a poke in the face to the Western Alliance to show how fruitless our efforts have been over the last two decades,” Mr Ellwood said.

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