Afghanistan: We cannot stand back and allow a humanitarian disaster to unfold

We look with dismay and apprehension at the advance of Taliban Forces in Afghanistan. It didn’t have to be like this and there is a duty on the international community to offer support to the people of Afghanistan.

The world must not look away and allow a grave international security crisis, refugee and humanitarian catastrophe to unfold. We extend our support for the Afghan people and mourn the loss of human life and the displacement of people fleeing the Taliban offensive.

There will be time in the coming months to analyse over 40 years of strategic and tactical failures which have led to this, but that must not hold up humanitarian intervention in Afghanistan to prioritise human security.

Urgent steps must be taken to compel the Taliban to halt their military offensive. It is clear that the rapid withdrawal of Military support was a strategic error and the UK must use all its international influence through NATO and the UN Security Council. There is still time for the United States to alter its decision to abruptly quit Afghanistan and provide the necessary assistance to the Afghan military to stop the Taliban advance and create safe havens and safe routes for those internally displaced.

It is imperative that the international community immediately works to create safe routes to safe havens for people fleeing the Taliban both within Afghanistan and across international borders. The UK Government must announce that all processes which could lead to the deportation of Afghan nationals from the UK to Afghanistan will stop immediately. 

All borders around Afghanistan must remain open and the UK must provide support for refugees including safe, legal routes to the UK for those fleeing as part of a co-ordinated international effort. Reassurance, including financial aid, must be issued to the Republic of Afghanistan.

The decision by the UK Government to slash aid spending and shut down the Department for International Development must not be an impediment to providing aid. In the light of this and other events, the UK government should reverse the decision to ditch the 0.7% GDP commitment for International Development.

Targets for assassination in Afghanistan such as women’s rights campaigners, interpreters, progressives, civil servants, and civil society leaders must be protected. The UK should call for immediate protection of all vulnerable groups and grant humanitarian protection VISAs as a matter of urgency.

There must be a concerted international plan to ensure the immediate cessation of attacks on cities and the human rights abuses which follow such attacks. We need rapid international condemnation of the Taliban, swift diplomatic intervention and to put humanitarian measures in place with the military providing security and protection where necessary.

The international community needs to throw a protective ring around Kabul as quickly as possible. This needs the backing of the International Institutions whether through the UN or a UN approved NATO Force alongside peace-keeping military resources to protect areas not already under Taliban Control –  and in the first instance – by the military already being deployed around Kabul by the UK and its International allies.

Humanitarian aid and the creation of secure areas in which it can be deployed cannot be delivered without a significant military presence. Failing to rapidly intervene to prevent a humanitarian disaster creating greater instability and insecurity is simply not an option. 

The International Community need to provide forces designed for human security, which would include the military but would also include police, engineers, aid workers and health workers to support and protect the people of Afghanistan.This can be done under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter as there is an immediate threat to human life on a mass scale due to an act of aggression. 

Afghanistan’s neighbours need to use their influence to help halt the Taliban advance and seek to protect civilian life. The International Community must seek to freeze the assets and apply sanctions to those who, overtly or covertly, support the Taliban.  

Afghanistan must never be allowed to return to being a training ground and support base for international terrorism.

Time and again we see a politics from the Right which expects to both withdraw from the International Stage and not be willing to offer safety to those they have left vulnerable whilst at the same time cutting development spending. These actions have never and will never be the solution. We must always be outward looking and support the building of peaceful and sustainable societies. The time to build a new international consensus is long overdue and the Left has a duty to lead it.

Rapid co-ordinated international action is needed now and the UK has a moral and historical duty to act. This is not the time to be distracted by blame games or finger-pointing, we need to save lives.

Open Labour National Committee 2021/2022

Special thanks to Professor Mary Kaldor for her support and expertise in the creation of this statement.

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