UK Parliament to be recalled to discuss Afghanistan

MPs will return early from summer break as Taliban reach Kabul

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The UK Parliament is to be recalled next week from its summer break to discuss the rapidly deteriorating situation in Afghanistan.

With the Taliban on the brink of taking Kabul, MPs will be called back by Prime Minister Boris Johnson for an urgent debate on what Britain should do next.

Britain’s Defense Ministry says UK troops have arrived in Kabul to help evacuate remaining Britons there.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said after chairing a Cabinet emergency committee meeting Sunday that the priority is to get out British nationals, as well as Afghans who helped UK forces in Afghanistan over the past 20 years, “as fast as we can.”

“The ambassador is working round the clock, has been there in the airport to help process the applications,” he said.

“We certainly have the means at the moment to get them out … It’s just a question of making sure that they’re able to do it over the next few days.”

The “vast bulk” of embassy staff and officials have already left Afghanistan, Mr Johnson added.

Nobody should bilaterally recognise the Taliban as the government of Afghanistan, Mr Johnson also said on Sunday, adding it was clear that there would be a new administration in the country very shortly.

On Sunday afternoon the Boris Johnson spoke to the Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the UN Secretary General António Guterres about the current situation in Afghanistan.

Mr Johnson welcomed the joined-up international efforts to get foreign nationals, Afghan contractors and humanitarian workers to safety in recent days.

The Prime Minister emphasised the need for a coordinated and concerted effort from the international community in the coming months to tackle the extremist threat and address the humanitarian emergency in Afghanistan.

Mr Johnson stressed the importance of any recognition of a new Afghan Government happening on a joint, rather than unilateral, basis.

The Prime Minister also called for meetings of Nato’s North Atlantic Council and the UN Security Council to take place as soon as possible to enable high-level international discussions on the key issues facing Afghanistan.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Sunday that he was deeply concerned about the future of Afghanistan after speaking with his Pakistani counterpart, Shah Mahmood Qureshi.

“Shared my deep concerns about the future for Afghanistan with FM Qureshi,” Mr Raab wrote on Twitter.

“Agreed it is critical that the international community is united in telling the Taliban that the violence must end and human rights must be protected.”

Mr Raab is “personally overseeing” the Foreign Office response and will be returning to Britain on Sunday, a representative said. It is believed he had been on holiday.

Backbench MPs from Mr Johnson’s Conservative Party and senior opposition figures had called for the early return. Parliament has been on recess since July 22, with MPs not due back until September 6.

Tobias Ellwood, chairman of the influential Defence Select Committee and a former minister, said: “Parliament will now be recalled. Thank you. I now encourage all my colleagues to make it clear to the PM that abandoning Afghanistan is the wrong decision.”

Mr Ellwood has said the government could deploy the Royal Navy’s HMS Queen Elizabeth carrier strike group to provide air support.

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer had also called for MPs to return, describing the situation in Afghanistan as “deeply shocking”.

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

Mr Starmer said the “immediate priority now must be to get all British personnel and support staff safely out of Kabul”.

Referring to the recall, Labour’s foreign affairs spokeswoman, Lisa Nandy, said: “This is the right thing to do, but how on Earth has it taken this long?”

Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat, who served in Afghanistan and is chairman of Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Select Committee, said the UK had “abandoned the Afghan people”.

He compared it to the failed 1956 invasion of Egypt by British forces.

“We haven’t heard from the Foreign Secretary in about a week, despite this being the biggest single foreign policy disaster since Suez, so I don’t know what the Foreign Office is thinking,” he told the BBC.

About 600 British troops have been sent to Afghanistan to help UK and Afghan staff, and interpreters, to leave.

Britain lost 457 troops in the two-decade war in the country.

Updated: August 16, 2021, 3:53 AM