The situation that has unfolded in Afghanistan over the last week has exposed the human cost of war – both to the people of Afghanistan and to the British and allied troops.
It has also exposed the dangers of relying on war and invasion as a means of solving what are often complex problems.
Anti-war movements warned that war would not solve the problems in Afghanistan. After 20 years of conflict and the loss of a quarter of a million lives, the people of Afghanistan still live insecure, fearful lives.
While trillions of dollars have been spent on this conflict, far too little has been done to benefit the people of Afghanistan. There have been some improvements in education and in the lives of women and girls, but only 27% of Afghan people have access to clean water, and nearly half the population still live below the poverty line. At the same time, the war has cost so many lives – 71,000 Afghan civilians have died as a result of war. Afghan Government corruption (a government supported by America and its allies) over the last 20 years has meant that money allocated to infrastructure projects was often misspent, wasted or disappeared.
My thoughts are very much at this time with the people of Afghanistan who face an uncertain future and have suffered so much violence already.
I therefore join the call on the UK Government to urgently work with allies to develop a multi-national plan for helping refugees. Tightening borders is not the answer!
The UK Government must step up to the plate financially so that Welsh Government and Welsh Local Authorities can effectively provide support to refugees in this Nation of Sanctuary. We must open our doors, our hearts and minds to offer them the support they need to rebuild their lives.
My thoughts are also with those Welsh soldiers and their families, who lost their lives, were injured or suffer still from the trauma of war. War must never be the first option, and we should never put our troops in harm’s way unnecessarily.
We should invest in humanitarian support, in locally developed projects and initiatives, and measures to end extreme poverty. And at the same time we need to press for the recognition of the human rights of the people of Afghanistan, especially the women and girls. We must immediately create safe and secure routes for refugees fleeing Afghanistan, and ensure that Government bureaucracy and lack of forethought does not get in the way of our humanity.
I call on the UK Government to learn the lesson of this – and other – wars and invasions. We cannot impose our views on another country and undermine their sovereignty. It leads to feelings of resentment towards what is seen as an outside occupying power, especially when coupled with air strikes which result in the death of your family or your neighbours.
We must invest our people, our money and our compassion in future in peaceful ways to help other nations to progress and develop so that the UK becomes a leader on the international stage in a different kind of battle – the battle for world peace.