UK’s Johnson under fire as gov’t unveils Afghan refugee plan

(Update 1: Adds remarks from MP debate)

London, Aug 18 (EFE).- The United Kingdom has evacuated 2,052 Afghan nationals so far as part of its resettlement scheme, prime minister Boris Johnson told lawmakers during an emergency debate on the situation in Afghanistan Wednesday.

Conservative PM Johnson announced that 306 UK nationals had been safely returned from Kabul and that 2,000 Afghan visa applications had been processed.

The UK government earlier said its Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme would provide shelter to 20,000 Afghan refugees, beginning with 5,000 in the first year, with priority given to women, girls, and children.

This program is in addition to the current one in place for interpreters who assisted the British forces in Afghanistan over the last 20 years, the government said.

Opening the emergency debate in the UK’s lower chamber of parliament, for which lawmakers were recalled from summer recess, Johnson pledged to do “everything we can to support those who have helped the UK mission in Afghanistan.”

But the prime minister’s foreign policy came under heavy criticism from MPs, including some from his own benches.

Opposition Labour party leader Keir Starmer said the prime minister had lacked leadership and that the government had shown “complacency” with regards to the Taliban.

“The prime minister’s response to the Taliban arriving at the gates of Kabul was to go on holiday,” Starmer continued, describing Johnson’s judgment on Afghanistan “appalling.”

The UK’s remaining military personnel in Afghanistan withdrew as part of the United States-led Nato mission. The rapid withdrawal of international troops preceded the Taliban’s dizzying return to power in the war-torn country.

British troops were first deployed during the US-led 2001 invasion of Afghanistan following Al-Qaeda’s 9/11 attacks. The invasion toppled the Taliban regime at the time.

A total of 457 UK military personnel were killed in Afghanistan.

The combat mission officially ended in 2014, after which British forces remained in an advisory role to Afghan security forces.

On Tuesday, Johnson spoke on the phone with US President Joe Biden and agreed to continue working together in the coming days and months to allow as many people as possible to leave Afghanistan, according to a spokesperson from Downing Street.

“The prime minister stressed the importance of not losing the gains made in Afghanistan over the last 20 years, of protecting ourselves against any emerging threat from terrorism and of continuing to support the people of Afghanistan,” said the spokesperson.EFE


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