Afghanistan: ‘The fear, the danger’

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn joined protestors outside parliament on Wednesday as MPs debated the Afghan crisis, and the UK’s commitment to take 5,000 refugees.

The former Labour leader called on the government to explain the chaotic evacuation and to take more refugees than they had pledged.

Speaking at the protest, organised by Stop the War, he said: “I’m hoping that the government will explain the chaos of the evacuation, will agree on a much larger number of refugees coming to this country, drop the anti-refugee rhetoric that Priti Patel has been dishing out for the past few months, and, above all, give us some inkling they’re going to learn the foreign policy lessons.”

But the Islington MP was not alone in feeling angry and upset, with many present feeling that the war had been a waste of money and lives.

Chris Nineham, founder and vice chair of the Stop the War campaign, said the war was doomed to end badly from the start.

“The real problem is that the decision was made to invade in the first place,” he said.

“It causes disaster for the Western powers to try and impose their will militarily in different parts of the globe.”

The Stop the War demonstration was followed by Afghan protestors raising signs with images of atrocities committed by the Taliban. They carried phrases such as “Protect our loved ones” and “Do not leave anyone behind”.

Mohmed Khalid has lived in Britain for 20 years, having fled the Taliban decades ago. But many members of his family are still in Afghanistan.

“My own family; my nephew, my nieces, the girls they’ve been working hard for the last ten years.” Khalid said, “But they’ve already been told: ‘Don’t come to work anymore’. That’s my own niece. She’s a hard worker. She’s staying at home now.”

On Monday, Joe Biden defended the US’ decision to remove troops from Afghanistan. He accused the Afghan army of failing to fight their own war.

But there are many who disagree. Rafi, who asked to only be referred to by his first name, worked as an Afghan interpreter for the UK between 2006 and 2011. He spoke about the sacrifices made by the Afghan people during the war.

“Our soldiers were left in a situation that they had fought to the last bullet that they had. And in that kind of situation the Taliban captured and killed them.”

He said: “The entire nation feels betrayed. They feel angry. They feel let down by the Americans; the partners who we thought would stand by us in this war against terrorism.”

As people flee en-masse from the country, the UK has so far pledged to take 5,000 refugees, but many feel the government should be doing more.

“5,000 in the next year; I mean that is an absolute disgrace.” Nineham said, “We should be saying that any Afghan who wants to come and live in Britain is welcome here and we should resettle them.”

From afar, we can’t begin to imagine what it must feel like for those living in Afghanistan.

The Taliban yesterday made some conciliatory noises about women being allowed to continue in education “within the framework of Islam” and about not seeking revenge on government officials whom they spent 20 years fighting against.

But those who have lived under the Taliban rule won’t be easily convinced by their words.

“Even out here, when I’m looking around, I’m thinking: ‘There might be somebody around me’,” said Khalid.

“Twenty years passed but it’s still in my head. The fear, the danger: everything.”