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'We should not lose sight of the gains we have made in Afghanistan'

Column by Caroline Johnson, MP for Sleaford and North Hykeham

No one can fail to be moved by the scenes from Afghanistan we are seeing on our television screens. I am particularly concerned for the future of women and girls.

Twenty years ago, the arrival of allied forces swept away one of the world’s most repressive regimes and set lofty goals to empower Afghan women to enjoy full participation in civic and public life. Millions of girls went to school, women represented more than a quarter of the seats in Afghanistan’s Parliament and held prominent positions in Afghan
media and civil society.

Caroline Johnson (23271513)
Caroline Johnson (23271513)

We should not lose sight of these gains. At the same time, at this uncertain juncture in Afghanistan’s history, we must ensure that these gains are not lost and that the hard-won rights of Afghans are not taken away.

I am assured by the Prime Minister that the Government, using every political and diplomatic means at its disposal, is urgently engaged upon this task. Seventy-five per cent of Afghanistan’s public expenditure is from aid - and the UK alongside its international partners has made it clear to the Taliban that this will not be forthcoming and their Government not recognised, if they fail to uphold the basic rights of Afghans, including women and girls.

Lincolnshire is the home of the RAF and many of my constituents have served in Afghanistan. They represent some of the 150,000 British soldiers who fought and risked their lives in service of the mission there. Many have contacted me expressing their concern for the legacy of the UK’s intervention in Afghanistan. We must remember that the core mission was to stop it being used as a safe haven for terrorism. Since then, no successful terrorist attacks have been launched from Afghanistan against the West. Their service provided vital protection for two decades to this country and our allies and we owe an
immense debt of gratitude to them.

Afghanistan must not again be allowed to become a breeding ground for terrorists. The Taliban must be held to their commitments not to harbour or give safe haven to terrorist groups which endanger other countries. I welcome that the Prime Minister continues to work with NATO, the UN and other G7 leaders to ensure the international community speaks with a single message on this issue. Ultimately the new regime will be judged on their actions, not words, and I will continue to support the Government in their efforts to ensure Afghanistan does not again become a threat to the world.

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