Women in Afghanistan are “paying the price” of the West’s chaotic withdrawal from the country, a senior Tory MP has said.
Alicia Kearns, the recently selected chair of the foreign affairs select committee, said the US decision to leave the country will be a “stain on our conscience for a long time”.
Her comments come as the Taliban, which swooped to power following the evacuation, issue a renewed crackdown on civil liberties, leading to protests across cities.
Women and girls have been banned from attending secondary school and university, while women have also been barred from working in non-governmental organisations — prompting several charities to suspend their operations.
Asked on Times Radio whether women were now “paying the price” for the West’s mistakes, Kearns said: “Without question.”
She continued: “The American decision to withdraw without telling the rest of us left us with no other option.
“Britain worked to try and pull together a new group of people to remain behind, Turkey was very keen to stay with us because they recognised the risks.
“But unfortunately, America’s decision to pull out given that they had the majority of the people, the equipment of the finances of the infrastructure on the ground, meant that everyone else had no choice but to withdraw.
“But yes, it will continue to be a stain on our conscience for a long time.”
Both the US and the UK came under heavy fire for the nature of the withdrawal from Afghanistan after 20 years of occupation.
Dominic Raab, who was foreign secretary at the time, was widely criticised for his decision to go on holiday during the period preceding Kabul’s fall to the Taliban, as was Philip Barton, the Foreign Office permanent secretary.
Earlier this year a scathing report by Commons’ foreign affairs select committee concluded that the “mismanagement” of the evacuation “likely cost lives”.
The MPs on the committee said the decision of Barton and Raab to go on holiday showed a “fundamental lack of seriousness, grip or leadership” and that the overall withdrawal was a “disaster” and a “betrayal” of Britain’s allies.
The Taliban’s restrictions on women and girls’ freedoms indicate a return to the group’s way of ruling in the 1990s, when they banned women from education and public spaces and also banned music, television and many sports.
Save the Children, the International Rescue Committee, the Norwegian Refugee Council and CARE have all suspended their operations following the decree banning women from working in their organisations.
The International Committee of the Red Cross warned that the decree “can and will lead to catastrophic humanitarian consequences in the short to long term”.
The Taliban’s crackdown has prompted a wave of protests across some cities, including Herat, where protesters were dispersed with water cannons.
Over the weekend, hundreds of male students in Kandahar boycotted their final semester exams at Mirwais Neeka University in an expression of solidarity with female pupils.