Basingstoke and the Afghan situation

Dear Editor,

Many thanks to your reporter, Catriona, for reaching out to me recently to discuss my views on the issues in Afghanistan. What we are witnessing is a defining moment in our current history, one that will shape our foreign policy for years to come. 

Over recent days the debate on the situation has, quite rightly, remained high on the agenda. Our priority, of course, should be how we can secure the safe return of British citizens as well as those Afghans whose lives are now in danger in the hands of a Taliban that will want revenge and we must also understand what we can do to support those displaced from their homes.

I am a little disappointed to have seen negativity from some of the residents of Basingstoke over this situation. I personally don’t agree with them.

Afghanistan is now in the grips of a humanitarian crisis that this country has a moral duty to help resolve. The “we should help our own” brigade seems only to forget that opportunities to “help our own” have happened and caused many complaints at the time.

I would also stress that we can, and must, do both and I applaud the many MPs, local councils, and councillors across the country have had the moral courage to stand up and be counted in this debate.

I am pleased to see that the Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council has been one of many to reach out to offer assistance to the many Afghans, who have risked their lives alongside NATO Forces and would like to thank Cllr Tristan Robinson for reaching out to me privately to let me know prior to the announcement in the Gazette what support we will be offering.

I look forward to being able to see the detail of what that looks like in real terms as and when we are called upon as we have a moral obligation to help. Whilst it is pleasing to see our council step up to the plate, I have to express some dismay from the lack of input from our Armed Forces Champion at the council, which to be honest, has been lacklustre for many years.

Many residents of the borough will have seen action in Afghanistan during our 20-year deployment to the region and it would be good to have seen some direction on where to find help and support in this difficult time. Many of us, quite rightly, have not known where to turn for support and have relied on each other to direct where the help is needed.

With our borough so close to an RAF base that will be operating as part of the current support task what support or signposting is the council able to offer?

Equally displeasing is how our MP, Maria Miller, has preferred to toe the party line in support of a foreign secretary who has been incapable of doing his job. And where have the other local MPs been in this debate?

Whilst I will agree that a phone call from the foreign secretary at the time would not have prevented this from happening it could have ensured the safety and lives of many hundreds, if not thousands, of people who are now at risk and would have no doubt provided a bit of morale to those involved with a very difficult and distressing task that was approaching at the time.

The endless list of excuses suggesting he was prioritising other things is laughable and it seems that, despite sitting in the House of Commons all day during the debate on the situation, Maria hasn’t learned a thing.

Some Conservative MPs agree Dominic Raab needs to go. What does she expect to gain out of this? Others in similar positions have fallen a little more graciously on their swords, such as Conservative Peer, Lord Carrington, who resigned after not foreseeing the Argentinian invasion of the Falklands, it’s time some Conservatives took lead from their predecessors.

Without a doubt, this issue has been extremely distressing for many people. We should never be put in a similar situation again.

Once the immediate issues are resolved there are important questions to be asked of how the government allowed it to happen and more importantly what we need to do to prevent it from happening again.

Over 150 thousand troops and many more contractors, aid workers, and diplomats all deserve answers and that is why I believe there should be a public inquiry into the fall of Afghanistan.

Alex Lee, Basingstoke


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