My contribution to this column last week was quickly overtaken by events. The Chief of the Defence staff, Sir Nicholas Carter’s analysis that the Afghan security forces were pursuing a sensible strategy of consolidating in the cities, turns out to have been quite detached from actual events on the ground.
Equally, my own suggestion that we might be being too hasty in our determination to expedite evacuations, turns out to have been ill-informed. Nevertheless, the concern about providing asylum for translators has been a long running saga over recent years and is likely to have had an impact on the morale of those who had no alternative but to continue taking the fight to the Taliban.
In 2016 I had a meeting with President Ghani where one item on my agenda was to get a more constructive approach from his government regarding facilitating the return to Afghanistan of failed Afghan asylum seekers from the Britain. His response was that he was a ‘war president’ and his first concern must be the men and women who were fighting the battle, rather than taking up any of his time with arrangements to accommodate those who had chosen to run away. It was a fair point.
My own view was that our proper contribution to Afghanistan was not in providing asylum, but rather in the hundreds of lives sacrificed by our armed forces and the billions of pounds that we spent on education, healthcare, humanitarian aid and economic development. The humiliating defeat of this enterprise inevitably means we will face what we sought to avoid, namely enormous new demands on our ability to provide sanctuary and asylum.
There is no hiding the magnitude of the disaster. An enormous unforced strategic error has been made by the decision to withdraw before the Afghan armed forces were capable of defeating the Taliban.
Our enemies will be celebrating the humiliating defeat of western democracy and a huge morale boost will be given to Islamist terrorists the world over.
It is pure wishful thinking to believe that the Taliban will not return to their former policy of harbouring foreign terrorists and promoting the violent assault on our values. The disaster in Afghanistan is unlikely to be confined there.
Almost as an afterthought, Afghan students who had been successful in the highly competitive Chevening Scholarship scheme, which enables them to study for a master’s degree in the UK, have been told that there is now no time to arrange their visas. But, hey, don’t worry: they can defer their scholarships until next year.
As if the Taliban regime will be going to facilitate such an endeavour.