We have all seen the deeply distressing images coming out of Afghanistan over the last few days. It is something that has touched me deeply.
My husband served in Afghanistan with the British Army and lost friends there. Over the years I took the opportunity to visit our troops myself in Helmand Province. Back in Gosport I have met many who have served and spoken to those who have lost loved ones in Afghanistan. When it is suggested that their efforts, their sacrifice and their loss over nearly 20 years may have been for nothing, it is utterly heartbreaking.
I entirely share the massive sense of anger and frustration that we could have done more as an international community to prevent this outcome.
I understand that the international military presence in Afghanistan was never intended to be permanent but I cannot believe that it was always going to end this way. For twenty years we fought to make that country safer. For twenty years our troops denied terrorists a safe haven to launch attacks against UK. Our efforts enabled development that has improved millions of lives, given thousands of girls and women education and status, and transformed Afghan society.
150,000 people from the UK served in Afghanistan, 457 sadly lost their lives, including Will Blanchard from Gosport. Hundreds more sustained life-changing injuries. Every veteran and their families needs to know that this sacrifice was not in vain.
Many constituents have contacted me with their concerns for those left behind and for the horrors that may come. I also share that concern. It is imperative that we ensure the safety of British Nationals and those who have helped us along the way.
Nobody could have predicted the speed of the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan and we will have to wait and see the full implications, whether what appears to be a softening in their stance on a number of issues, according to their statements today, actually has any basis in reality.
We must ensure that human rights, including those of women, girls and minorities, are protected and upheld. If the Taliban do continue to abuse basic human rights they cannot expect to enjoy any legitimacy in the eyes of the Afghan people or the international community.
Nobody wants Afghanistan once again to be a breeding ground for terror and it is not in the interests of the people of Afghanistan that it should lapse back into that state.
The Prime Minister said in July “We are not about to turn away” from Afghanistan and I fully support this commitment.
I will be listening very carefully to the Prime Minister’s statement tomorrow.