The clock is ticking for the international evacuation of Afghanistan, as the Taliban closes in on capital Kabul and its airport.
In the middle of all this, one Croydon MP has told of the heart-rending individual human stories of families torn apart as a consequence of the interventionist West’s latest foreign policy disaster. Thousands are to be left behind, abandoned to their fate.
Last night, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s appeal to the White House to extend the deadline for extractions was ignored, and as reports suggested that British forces might be forced to pull out of Kabul Airport in just 24 hours, MP Sarah Jones revealed that her office’s efforts included one case in which she was attempting to reunite a five-year-old boy with his parents.
The couple, British nationals, are Jones’s constituents in London, the mother having recently undergone cancer treatment. Their son is seemingly trapped in Afghanistan, where he has been living with his grandmother.
“He needs to get to his parents,” Jones tweeted. “I hope they will be safe.”
Thousands of Afghans seem certain to be abandoned to their fate as the United States, Britain and other Western powers hurriedly exit the country after their 20-year war.
Last night United States President Joe Biden rejected pleas from Johnson for the airlift to continue beyond August 31.
The Grauniad is reporting that the US military needs two to three days to close down its operations in Kabul, and British troops want to be at least 24 hours ahead of that – leaving a small window for RAF flights evacuating those at risk from the Taliban’s takeover.
“All Western forces are set to leave within days,” the newspaper reports.
In the sheer scale of the operation going on in Kabul, it might be easy to lose sight that for every person standing in the queues at the airport, hopeful, often desperate, for an escape from the Taliban, they are all human stories, each one as compelling as the next.
That was certainly clear from a forlorn thread of tweets from the official account of Labour’s Croydon Central MP last night, as she laid out a brief outline of the kind of casework she and her parliamentary staff were trying to deal with amid the chaos in Kabul.
Jones’s brief account was laced with more than a touch of hopelessness in the face of a dreadful situation of our goovernment’s making.
Her admission that, despite the best efforts of her and her staff, she has not managed to get any refugees out of Afghanistan so far, gives an indication of the scale of the difficulties the authorities in London are facing.
It was just before 11pm when Jones posted her first message: “Exhausting day for my team trying to help people in Afghanistan. I can only imagine what it is like for the people desperate to get out.
“I have many families who are now in hiding, and I don’t know what will happen to them. It is awful.
“A lot of my cases are Afghans who have worked for the government or police or army or [Non-Governmental Organisations]. I am trying to get them out under the government ‘special cases’, but have not managed to get any out yet.
“I also have a lot of women and children who are married to British nationals who are in this country. They are not allowed to travel without a man and many are really scared. I do not know if I can get any of them out.
“We are trying to explore options to get people to Pakistan, to get people safe houses or safe transport. The options at the airport seem to be closing. All we can hope is that the Taliban allow people to leave after the Americans go.
“But I have heard many stories of the Taliban searching for families, seeking people out who worked for the government, harassing women and making threats. Their national representatives claim they will investigate cases of abuse – but it seems widespread.
“A husband and wife – both British nationals – came to my office – the wife has had cancer recently. Their five-year-old son is in Kabul with his grandmother. He needs to get to his parents. I hope they will be safe.”
Jones’s final tweet in the thread expressed the justifiable desperation around the situation.
“And now we hear the flights are ending sooner than we thought,” she wrote.
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