Tory MP says lessons should be learned from the Afghan war – we’ve heard it all before

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Calls for a full inquiry into Britain’s disastrous 20-year war in Afghanistan have been rejected by ministers. The refusal comes despite an influential Tory lobbying for a full audit of the UK’s role in the Afghan war. Foreign affairs select committee chair Tobias Ellwood said the decision would prevent important lessons being learned – something we’ve heard all too often before.

No inquiry

Ellwood chairs the defence select committee, which called on the government to investigate. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has now refused to go ahead:

The MoD assesses that the value of a further wide-ranging review of the totality of the Afghanistan campaign is limited, would absorb considerable resource, and does not coincide with the now-published Integrated Review.

It was responding to a much narrower defence committee report on the chaotic 2021 withdrawal.

Ellwood said that it was vital to get to the heart of what he called a “dark chapter in UK military history”:

Refusing to engage in a standalone review of the Afghanistan campaign prevents lessons from being consolidated and put into action for future risks.

One aspect of the war which needs scrutiny is those left behind. Indeed, figures suggest 3,000 eligible people were left behind despite qualifying for the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP).

Read on...

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In truth, Afghan people who did manage to escape to the UK did not fare that well either. The National Audit Office (NAO) recently warned that millions of pounds of the overseas aid budget were being spent internally. This included housing Afghan people in poor accommodation. Meanwhile, those who’ve to come the UK through Europe could be among the first deported to Rwanda.


With all this in mind, it may not be a surprise that the government doesn’t want a inquiry into the Afghanistan war. Though even if it happened it’d still be the government marking its own homework – just like the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq war.

Tory or not, Ellwood isn’t wrong when he says Afghanistan was a dark chapter. However, his ‘lessons learned’ narrative is one that we’ve heard all too often before.

Invariably, this notion is little more than tokenistic posturing. Moreover, the process is steeped in racism – because the people affected are usually Black and Brown. From the Iraq invasion to the Windrush scandal, UK governments have repeatedly said they’ll learn lessons. Yet they never do. These incidences display Western, colonialist policies functioning exactly how they’re supposed to, so there’s nothing the government is willing to learn anyway.

Politicians telling Black and Brown people they’ll learn lessons means nothing – and just adds insult to injury. So, while Ellwood’s call will probably cause a shudder in a government which isn’t keen to shed light on what happened in Afghanistan – it will likely change little.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons/MOD, cropped to 770 x 403, Open Government Licence

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