UK Parliament recalled over Afghan crisis amid evacuation of British nationals

Prime Minister Boris Johnson convened another emergency Cabinet Office Briefing Rooms (COBRA) meeting on Monday to take stock of the crisis in the region.

Published: 16th August 2021 07:04 PM  |   Last Updated: 16th August 2021 07:04 PM   |  A+A-

Taliban fighters stand guard in front of the Hamid Karzai International Airport, in Kabul

Taliban fighters stand guard in front of the Hamid Karzai International Airport, in Kabul. (Photo | AP)


LONDON: The UK Parliament, currently on its summer recess, has been recalled for a day on Wednesday to debate the British government's response to the crisis in Afghanistan after the Taliban overthrew the Western-backed government and seized control of Kabul.

“The Speaker of the House of Commons granted a request from the government to recall the House of Commons at 9:30 am on Wednesday, August 18, in relation to the situation in Afghanistan,” a House of Commons statement confirmed.

The British government has advised more than 4,000 British citizens still in Afghanistan to leave and says it is working on getting them all out.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson convened another emergency Cabinet Office Briefing Rooms (COBRA) meeting on Monday to take stock of the crisis in the region.

"Our priority is to make sure we deliver on our obligations to UK nationals, to all those who have helped the British effort in Afghanistan over 20 years, and to get them out as fast as we can," he said after a COBRA meeting over the weekend.

Johnson said no one wants Afghanistan to become a "breeding ground for terror" and admitted that the situation "continues to be extremely difficult" and will get even more so.

Calling on “like-minded nations” not to "prematurely" recognise the Taliban, he added: "What we're dealing with now is very likely the advent of a new regime in Kabul. We don't know yet exactly what kind of regime it will be."

Downing Street said Mr Johnson also held calls with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and UN Secretary-General António Guterres over the weekend.

“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,” a Downing Street spokesperson said.

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

The Prime Minister 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 these issues,” the spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said he had received assurances from the Taliban leadership via a Middle East country that the military part of the airport would be allowed to function, enabling UK officials and forces to help people leave.

Around 600 British troops have been sent to Afghanistan to help evacuate UK nationals, as well as Afghan interpreters and other staff who worked for the UK, as part of Operation Pitting.

"If we can manage to keep the airport running in the way we are putting in place our people to deliver then I'm confident that by the end of the month we could get everyone out and actually hopefully sooner," said Wallace.

Speaking to LBC Radio, the former military man became emotional as he spoke of his worry that "some people won't get back. “We have to do our very best to get people out and stand by our obligations and 20 years of sacrifice is what it is," he said.

The Opposition Labour Party has called on the government to urgently expand the government's resettlement scheme for Afghans.

"The situation in Afghanistan is deeply shocking and seems to be worsening by the hour," said Labour Leader Keir Starmer.

"The immediate priority now must be to get all British personnel and support staff safely out of Kabul. The government has been silent while Afghanistan collapses, which let's be clear will have ramifications for us here in the UK," he said.


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