August 16, 2021 - 10:00am

Former Tory MP and Afghanistan expert Rory Stewart dominated the media over the weekend, with his excoriating criticism of the precipitate withdrawal from that country.

He has also led the way in moving the political conversation on to what is likely to be its heated next stage: the volume of Afghan refugees, fleeing the new regime, who should be welcomed by Western nations.

I would expect Britain to lead an international effort… to work out how we can provide safe passage and asylum for Afghans who want to leave. But be in no doubt: we are talking about many many millions of people. And this is an entirely horrifying and unnecessary tragedy, but it’s a tragedy that we bear the responsibility for for the reckless actions of the last few weeks.
- Rory Stewart

Commentators on the Left — many of whom have advocated leaving Afghanistan for years —are expressing almost universal horror at the effects of that policy. The number of refugees will offer a convenient channel for that guilt, and competition between countries will offer a way to pressurise the Government.

Canada has already announced it will accept 20,000 Afghan refugees. Will the Labour Party come out with a higher figure in the next couple of days?

As Parliament is recalled from holiday to debate the issue on Wednesday, expect the number of refugees that the UK commits to take to become a central political argument —it is now the only thing that British politicians have any agency over in this sad story.