My Lords, we went to Afghanistan with the United States 20 years ago. I believe that we have achieved much in the country since then. We have built significant infrastructure and rebuilt the cities. The allies trained a military and police force of 300,000, but they capitulated rapidly and surrendered their arms. With the United States, we have spent a total of $2.3 trillion. This sum shows the extent of our involvement. We should not have left Afghanistan in a hurry and handed everything to the Taliban. I think that there has been a flaw in our intelligence.
Furthermore, 454 British troops gave their lives to secure peace, security and prosperity in Afghanistan. What did all these young men and women die for? In addition, a number of our servicemen have been injured.
Our soldiers were fighting to disrupt the narcotics trade, which accounts for a significant part of the Taliban’s revenue. However, Afghanistan remains a large producer of opium and the Taliban can now supply drugs more extensively than ever before. Furthermore, our withdrawal could encourage extremism and inspire acts of terror worldwide. I ask my noble friend the Minister: how will our Government tackle the problems of security and the drugs trade?
We need to ensure that girls’ education and the status of women will not be harmed under the Taliban regime. Islam does not forbid women going into business or pursuing education.
The refugees are indeed in a desperate state. I am pleased to note that we have agreed to take 20,000 refugees, but can my noble friend confirm that there will be a clear process in place for dealing with the applications?
We need a global approach and to work with international partners. There is an immediate need to provide humanitarian aid, and the Muslim charities I know are providing help. Furthermore, we must ensure that all Afghans who worked for the British Administration are allowed to come to the UK. I have been approached by relatives of people who worked for the British Administration and who need help to get to the United Kingdom. Can my noble friend the Minister give me the name of someone who I can contact to discuss specific cases?
Can the Minister comment on what sort of relationship we will have with the Taliban and whether all considerations will be taken into account? Geopolitical implications are of paramount importance, with China and Russia ready to act on our withdrawal. The West is at risk of losing all influence in Afghanistan and severely limiting its operational effectiveness abroad. This cannot be allowed to happen, and we need to be proactive.