In last few days we’ve seen the last of the UK & US forces leaving Afghanistan in what has been an incredibly difficult time not only for the Afghan people but for constituents with family there and of course to our veterans who served there, now wondering – was it worth it?
Whilst the last two weeks have been spent trying to get those at immediate risk of life evacuated, it is estimated that 1,100 British nationals and those eligible to leave under the ARAP scheme weren’t able to leave or gain access to the airport in time.
I have nothing but respect and gratitude to the Armed Forces who have helped to co-ordinate the evacuation process and I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to all our heroes.
The Taliban’s promises not to seek revenge are not credible and therefore the Home Office & Foreign Office now need to act quickly to ensure that those Britons still stuck in the country, and Afghans who risked their lives working alongside our armed forces are provided with a safe route out of Afghanistan and finally to the UK. Those left behind are not only those who helped our forces in terms of training and interpreting but also include female MPs who’ve been vocal critics of the Taliban and who face a real and serious risk to their lives. We should and must do whatever we can to ensure that as allies, they are protected.
Whilst I was unlucky to not be called to take part in the Parliamentary debate when Parliament was recalled to discuss the situation in Afghanistan, there were several important and powerful contributions from colleagues who had served there including Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee Tom Tugendhat MP who himself served in Afghanistan.
I hope Bury’s veterans heard these contributions and heard the impact that their actions have had to ensure the security of the UK and Afghanistan. It cannot but have a long-lasting effect. The Taliban may have taken Kabul but they cannot recapture 20 years of relative freedoms, of girls going to school and of not being ruled by violent Islamist extremists.
For those veterans who are struggling with the news from Afghanistan, I was pleased to hear that the Health Secretary has made a commitment to do more in relation to Veteran’s mental health. This has been called for, for a long time and is certainly welcome albeit later than hoped for. Now this commitment needs to be rolled out across the entire nation including here in Bury so that our Veterans can get the help they require sooner rather than later