Afghan politician thanks British MP for saving her life

Shukria Barakzai was a politician in Afghanistan and former ambassador to Norway

Passengers from Afghanistan leave a British Royal Air Force plane after landing at RAF Brize Norton station in southern England on August 24. AFP
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A prominent Afghan politician gave emotional thanks on Tuesday to a British MP for helping to rescue her from the Taliban, while appealing for the UK to do more to get others out.

Shukria Barakzai, a politician and former ambassador to Norway, was speaking at a UK parliamentary hearing into the Taliban's lightning takeover of power.

The House of Commons foreign affairs committee also heard online from David Petraeus, the former commander of US forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, who said the "heartbreaking" takeover was entirely foreseeable when President Joe Biden had announced his intention to quit the country.

Ms Barakzai feared for her life as the Taliban overran Kabul in August. She appealed directly to the UK committee's chairman, Tom Tugendhat.

Ms Barakzai, who survived an assassination attempt in 2014, was flown out to Britain just as Taliban fighters ransacked her home in search of her.

"You saved my life – a mother for her kids, a daughter for her mother," she told Mr Tugendhat in the room, placing a hand on her heart.

The Conservative Mr Tugendhat is a former British Army officer who served in Afghanistan under Mr Petraeus.

"It is a huge privilege to have you here and I'm very grateful I was able to play a small part in ensuring that you are here, " Mr Tugendhat told Ms Barakzai.

Activist Shaharzad Akbar also urged Britain and the West to help fly out other Afghans who are vulnerable to Taliban reprisals, and to find ways of getting humanitarian assistance into Afghanistan through local aid groups.

Ms Akbar chaired the now-defunct Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, and signed a recent letter with Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai and others demanding the Taliban let girls return to school.

On video from Turkey, she said that of her commission's 392 staff, only six were given visas by the UK government and only two of them made it to Britain after bureaucratic delays.

"At least in my experience, there are smaller countries in Europe that have done better," she said.

The Times newspaper in London reported on Monday that Britain's envoy to Afghanistan had warned repeatedly that the fall of Kabul was coming, but then-foreign secretary Dominic Raab went on holiday in August.

On Twitter, Mr Tugendhat called the report "damning".

Mr Petraeus said the Taliban were now discovering the problems of holding power as they battle against the ISIS-Khorasan militant group.

He said there was the potential for western countries to align with Russia and China over Afghanistan, as no one wants "another geopolitical Chernobyl" like Syria.

Moscow invited the US, China and Pakistan for talks taking place on Tuesday, aiming for "a common position on the changing situation in Afghanistan".

Blaming logistical issues, Washington said it would not be joining the talks, but called the Russian initiative "constructive".

Updated: October 19, 2021, 9:45 PM