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The 20-year war on Afghanistan was a mistake of catastrophic proportions, causing untold human tragedy – Zarah Sultana MP

“20 years since Tony Blair dutifully followed George W. Bush to war in Afghanistan, this House has an obligation to learn its lessons & to ensure that its mistakes are never repeated.”

Zarah Sultana MP

Today, nearly 20 years since Tony Blair dutifully followed George W. Bush to war in Afghanistan, this House has an obligation to learn its lessons and to ensure that its mistakes are never repeated. I want to start by stating a hard but clear truth that some in this House do not want to hear: the 20-year war on Afghanistan was a mistake of catastrophic proportions, causing untold human tragedy, with 240,000 people killed—men, women and children—including tens of thousands of innocent Afghan civilians and 457 British personnel. This House must never again send British service personnel to die in futile wars.

Rather than repeating the mistakes of the past, we must learn that lesson for the future. The west cannot build liberal democracies with bombs and bullets. That dangerous fantasy, cooked up by neo-conservative fanatics in Washington and championed by their faithful followers in London, has brought untold death and destruction to Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and many other places, in wars that have made us all unsafe. Today, we must rid ourselves of the delusion that the answer to failed intervention is yet more intervention and dispense with the belief that freedom abroad and safety at home can be won through wars and regime change.

After all this bloodshed, we have a special duty to the people of Afghanistan. Today, as Afghans flee for their lives—with heartbreaking images of people desperately clinging on to planes, hoping that the sky is safer than the land—the Afghan asylum seekers who are already here must be provided with an unconditional amnesty. On that issue, I want to raise again with the Government the case of my constituent Jamal and his father. Jamal was a translator for the British Army for six years and his father worked as a gardener in a British base. While Jamal made it safely to Coventry, a proud city of sanctuary, his father has been denied relocation and is still in Afghanistan in grave danger. I have written to the Secretary of State, but I have not received a reply, so today I urge the Government to act immediately and provide safe passage for Jamal’s father and all Afghans who face that threat from the Taliban.

The war on Afghanistan was the first war on terror. I was just seven years old when British air strikes hit the country. A few years later, the now Prime Minister wrote, “We are in Afghanistan to teach them the value of democracy.” Today, after 20 years of bloodshed, it is incumbent on us to learn that democracy cannot be bombed into existence and that American military might is no friend of freedom, and to ensure that this first war on terror is Britain’s last war of aggression.

  • We are delighted to re-publish Zarah Sultana’s speech in Parliament on August 18 2021. Source Hansard.

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