Foreign AffairsSpeeches

Keir Starmer – 2021 Statement on Afghanistan

The statement made by Keir Starmer, the Leader of the Opposition, on 27 August 2021.

After the despicable acts of violence we witnessed on Thursday, the end of the evacuation from Kabul Airport marks a sad and dark day for many people in Afghanistan.

Amid the chaos, there have been many acts of courage. The Ambassador staying at his post to process every case he could. Paratroopers lifting people from the crush. Afghan soldiers who continue to serve alongside us to the end.

Soldiers and airmen, diplomats and embassy staff, working side by side with many Afghans have struggled tirelessly and bravely under immense pressure to get as many people to safety as possible. Their efforts must be widely recognised and honoured.

It has been a remarkable effort in unimaginably difficult circumstances with many acts of courage and heroism.

However, with the withdrawal we face the heart-breaking reality that people have been left behind, including many to whom we owe so much. The British Government must take its fair share of the responsibility and has serious questions to answer about how, despite having 18 months to prepare, their failure to plan and inability to influence others has contributed to this tragic political failure.

But first, although we no longer have a military presence in Afghanistan, we cannot and will not walk away from our obligations to the Afghan people. We must urgently help the thousands who we have left behind, some of whom are eligible for relocation under the ARAP scheme. There are MPs all over the UK who have constituents still pleading for their help. The Government must work quickly to deliver a strategy to get those people out and work with the UN and partners to quickly deliver essential aid directly to those in need.

We must then confront the new reality and challenges of Taliban control. Britain and our allies must use every lever we have to try and hold the Taliban to account. Before Parliament returns, the Prime Minister should set out in detail the G7 roadmap he has promised, including a plan to control Afghan financial assets, and a strategy to ensure Afghanistan does not become a haven for terror and a threat to our security once again.