The key moments and controversies in the Afghanistan debate as MPs are recalled to parliament

The key moments and controversies in the Afghanistan debate as MPs are recalled to parliament

Boris Johnson has today dragged MPs away from their summer holidays and recalled parliament to debate the crisis in Afghanistan.

On Sunday, Taliban forces seized control of the country causing people to flee to airports in an attempt to escape the regime. While the Taliban has said it will respect the rights of women, differentiating itself from its previous administration, there are already reports about how they are treating citizens suggesting this pledge will ring hollow.

The UK government has faced criticism for its response - both for inadequately preparing Western-backed Afghan forces prior to withdrawing their own troops and for not doing enough to support refugees fleeing the new regime.

The debate – pencilled in to last for around five hours – provides a chance for MPs to scrutinise the government on their actions in the country and for the government to set out its messages to the country.

Here’s what has happened so far.

Boris Johnson defends UK record in Afghanistan

Unsurprisingly, the Prime Minister has been positive about the government’s response to the crisis.

Speaking in the Commons, he said that “in spite of all the difficulties and challenges we knew we would face... we succeeded in that core mission” of removing the terror group’s operatives from Afghanistan.

“It would be fair to say [recent] events in Afghanistan have unfolded and the collapse [of the Afghan government] has been faster than even the Taliban themselves predicated,” he added.

“What is not true is to say the UK government was unprepared or did not foresee this.”

Johnson said the Taliban, who have promised to observe human rights, must be judged on “actions rather than words”.

“At this bleak turning point we must help the people of Afghanistan determine the best of all possible futures,” he added.

Not everyone agreed:

Keir Starmer praised for slamming the government

Opposition leader Starmer accused the prime minister of “staggering complacency” and “appalling” judgement by failing to plan properly for the withdrawal of troops over the past 18 months.

He called the government’s refugee repatriation target too small and claimed the 20,000 figure had been “plucked out of the air”.

On Raab and Johnson being on holiday during the early days of the crisis last week, he added: “The prime minister’s response to the Taliban arriving at the gates of Kabul was to go on holiday.

“You cannot coordinate an international response from the beach,” he said.

He received an outpouring of support on social media:

Sir Desmond Swayne slammed for suggesting Afghans fleeing the country should stay and fight

Tory MP Swayne left some MPs shouting “disgrace” after he questioned Starmer on what he would do if the UK was to fall to a “wicked and brutal” regime.

He said: “Were the government of this kingdom to be overthrown by a wicked and brutal regime, I venture that he would want a leading role in the resistance, he wouldn’t be queuing at the airport would he?”

MPs and journalists were quick to slam him for his words:

And for his part, Starmer replied:

“When I was director of public prosecutions I had some of my prosecutors in Afghanistan at huge risk working on counterterrorism with other brave souls there. So I won’t take that from him or anybody else.”

Theresa May praised questioning “Global Britain”

Former Prime Minister Theresa May has been praised for expertly attacking the government for its policies in Afghanistan.

She said:

“I do find it incomprehensible and worrying that the United Kingdom was not able to bring together not a military solution but an alternative alliance with countries to continue to provide the support necessary to sustain a government in Afghanistan.”

“The reality is that as long as this time limit was given and dates given for withdrawal, all the Taliban had to do was to ensure there were sufficient problems for the Afghan government not to be able to have full control of the country and then just sit and wait.”

“All of our military personnel, all who served in Afghanistan should hold their heads high and be proud of what they achieved in that country over 20 years, of the change of lives they brought to the people of Afghanistan and the safety they brought here to the UK.”

She added: “We boast about Global Britain, but where is Global Britain on the streets of Kabul?”

Here’s how people reacted:

Dominic Raab accused of laughing throughout the debate

Raab has been lambasted on social media after appearing to laugh at various points of the debate. The foreign secretary has faced more criticism than most, given his role and that he was on holiday in Crete while Kabul fell to Taliban forces.

Not doing anything to help his image, his laughter shared with parliamentary colleagues was clipped and posted on social media:

Conservative MP and British Afghanistan veteran delivers emotional speech

Tory MP Tom Tugendhat, a former soldier who served in Afghanistan, received rare applause from MPs after he gave a moving speech about the situation in the country.

He said that veterans and diplomats had been struggling in wake of the news and that the UK needed to do more to help.

He said: “This is a harsh lesson for all of us and if we’re not careful it could be a very, very difficult lesson for our allies.

“It doesn’t need to be. We can set out a vision, clearly articulate it, for reinvigorating our European Nato partners, to make sure that we are not dependent on a single ally, on the decision of a single leader, that that we can work together with Japan and Australia, France and Germany, with partners large and small and make sure we hold the line together.”

Conservative MP and veteran Johnny Mercer also made a similarly powerful speech.

John Redwood derided for claiming UK response in Afghanistan was “fast, purposeful and extremely well-guided”

Tory MP John Redwood interrupted May’s speech to defend the government, to the laughter and jeering of other MPs. He claimed it was all Biden’s fault for with withdrawing troops.

May reminded him that Biden was upholding an earlier decision made by Trump.

At 5pm, the debate with Dominic Raab making closing comments.

He said the government is “straining every sinew on the evacuation effort” and “working around the clock”.

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