Rutland MP's fight to help refugees in Afghanistan
Every night the news leads with the scenes from Kabul – and it’s simply heartbreaking, writes Rutland MP Alicia Kearns (Con).
To think that after 20 years, all that our veterans fought so hard for: a fragile stability, the freedoms and rights of so many, a reduced drug trade, and greater safety for us at home is being abandoned because our allies wouldn’t stand with us and the Afghan people. This is a tragedy, and was wholly preventable.
Our Government called for NATO allies to help us build a new coalition in Afghanistan to prevent the Taliban recapturing it, and we were let down. Only Turkey was willing to stand alongside us because they know what a failed state looks like. They support millions of refugees; they have seen the terrorists on their doorstep; they have seen the conflict and the suffering. The UK could not have saved all those lives on our own. Multilateral collective responsibility should mean something, but I believe that too often, as we have seen, it does not.
We must focus on the humanitarian crisis, but long term we need to recognise that the withdrawal is emblematic of a changing American posture, and we must convince our NATO allies that we can all stand together without the Americans in future alliances. We must also fix our broken international system because it is not saving lives. The UN has failed to enable a political solution, and the UK has a key role to play in reform. We must also look hard at our strategic goals in south Asia, because China is most certainly doing that.
Rutlanders have been touched by this – and I’m not surprised, given our large veteran community of whom I’ve spoken to many. In the House of Commons, I raised my concerns that while the human cost of this withdrawal is monumental, the strategic consequences risk being so much greater if we do not learn lessons focus sufficiently on them. But I’ve spent most of the last week working to identify and get out as many British nationals and our Afghan allies as possible. It’s been incredibly difficult, and gut wrenching, but the relief I’ve felt, and tears I’ve shed as we’ve supported each family to get safely to the airport and then safely land at the airport is why I became a MP. To help people in the darkest of times. I am proud to fight to get interpreters and others who supported our veterans to safety.
My inbox is overflowing with Rutlanders asking how they can help Afghan refugees. The good news is that each and every one of us can help. The Government has set up a hub to offer your help at gov.uk/help-refugees. So much is needed to help these refugees build a new life here, from baby clothes to housing; from toys to companionship. Anything will make a difference, and I know how generous Rutlanders are. If anyone wishes to make a donation, they are welcome to drop them off at my office at 33 High Street, Melton Mowbray.
I raised with the Ministry of Defence how keen our veteran community is to support those who served with them in Afghanistan and I’m pleased that they’ve offered housing to Rutland County Council to home refugees in our community; and that the council has accepted.
I’ve also been lobbying to ensure that we have adequate mental health support for veterans who previously served in Afghanistan and have found the last few weeks so utterly difficult, and for all those who are helping with the evacuation effort. Most of us will never truly understand the scars our veterans carry, and we will never understand all you encountered, but your service in Afghanistan was not in vain, and I and so many, many others will be eternally grateful for your service.
The coming days and weeks will see us witness many more atrocities. What the Taliban is presenting before the international community is simply platitudes—little more than a tactic to allow the Taliban to consolidate its control, avoid sanctions, keep the aid money rolling in, root out all those on its hit list and avoid UN Security Council measures. Perhaps I am wrong, but a basic understanding of Pashtunwali tells us that Taliban intent includes justice or revenge as one of the core tenets of its society and way of life.
The situation on the ground changes by the hour, but I am grateful that here in Rutland we believe we have a duty to those who fought alongside us, and I will continue to fight to get every ally and vulnerable individual out that I can.