by UnHerd
Monday, 16
August 2021
Video
10:00

Rory Stewart: we need to take ‘many many millions’ of Afghan refugees

The former Tory MP has been taking the debate in a new direction
by UnHerd

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.

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Terry Needham
Terry Needham
9 months ago

I didn’t vote for intervention in Afghanistan, because Afghanistan is none of our business, and I see no reason why our legitimate right to the defence of our borders and our society should be sacrificed to salve this man’s conscience.
This is my country as much as it is his.

Matty D
Matty D
9 months ago
Reply to  Terry Needham

It’s none of our business- until planes flew into the twin towers. None of our business – until refugees turn up at Dover. None of our business – until it becomes a magnet for terrorists which then come to the U.K. None of our business – until Afghan opium floods the U.K.

Isolationism never works. Ask Neville Chamberlain

Terry Needham
Terry Needham
9 months ago
Reply to  Matty D

Defend our borders by refusing entry to self proclaimed refugees (they are nothing of the sort- they are hustlers). Do not interfere in the affairs of faraway countries in which we have no conceivable legitimate interests. Insofar as terrorists operate in this country it is because we allow them to walk in through the front door.

Stuart Y
Stuart Y
9 months ago
Reply to  Matty D

Well what does work then? All I ever hear is in the West from all sides is “everything that doesn’t work” mainly from people and Politicians who can barely conceal their hatred of the “West”

John McGibbon
John McGibbon
9 months ago

The one answer missing is why the Taliban were able to take over the country in a matter of days. Much focus has been on “betrayal” by the West, but a perhaps more obvious answer is because the majority of the Afghans wanted it, preferring Sharia law to corrupt government. Pew Research, a couple of years ago, found that 99% of Afghan Muslims wanted Sharia law to be the official law of the country. It may be that those Afghans who have the ear of the West are a metropolitan minority who have benefited under the corruption of the governments supported by the West and it is this minority who fear the Taliban.
Also let’s not forget that from progressives here, we are told that Islam is the religion of peace and brings enrichment to host communities, that the wearing of burkas is not a male mandated requirement but the choice of women wearing them, and that Sharia law is not wrong it’s just different and practiced in many countries by our friends and allies.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
9 months ago
Reply to  John McGibbon

Did the women also get consulted during this research? Did they vote to not read books, wear birqahs, stop working?

John McGibbon
John McGibbon
9 months ago

Perhaps as Muslims in a deeply traditional and conservative country with poor levels of literacy, they already weren’t reading books, they were already wearing birqahs, and like many of the world’s poor, “work” consisted of subsistence living rather than working for a foreign NGO in an office. It may well be that they were consulted, just you disagree with the result.

Mirax Path
Mirax Path
9 months ago

Many women are firmer believers and guardians of female virtue as envisaged by Islam than men. Let’s not delude ourselves.

David Uzzaman
David Uzzaman
9 months ago

There are I’m sure many women in Afghanistan who are very unhappy about their change in fortunes in the last week but what did they or their husbands, fathers or brothers do to prevent this debacle. They’ve lived under an umbrella supported by foreign soldiers for twenty years. On paper the national army trained and equipped by the United States and Britain should have been more than a match for the Taliban. The fact that it collapsed almost as soon as the Americans indicates that there was no will to prevent Taliban rule.

Matty D
Matty D
9 months ago
Reply to  John McGibbon

What’s the source of that Pew research? Sounds extremely dubious to me.

Howard Gleave
Howard Gleave
9 months ago

I could not disagree with Rory Stewart more. Militarily, there was no reason why the Afghan government forces should not have been able to resist the Taliban. If government corruption created popular disillusionment, then accepting “many, many millions” of such people will effectively import this corruption. I sympathise with them, especially girls and women. But the solution cannot be to destroy my country on the altar of Stewart’s guilt complex.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
9 months ago
Reply to  Howard Gleave

Hard decisions must be made, and No is the answer. The Afghani have not shown themselves to be exlempiary migrants in the West, as many groups have. If migrants are needed get the ones with the best track record, harsh, but one’s Nation comes first – and USA and UK are always first to me, everyone else later.

Tom Lewis
Tom Lewis
9 months ago

Rory Stewart is wrong.
If the Afghans didn’t want an Islamic state, then they should have got off their collective backsides and done something about it. If the Taliban, co-religionists, are now in charge, then tough. Whatever the West’s faults, and failures,, they gave Afghans twenty years of opportunity to change the country. If that project has failed, then it is, first and foremost, a failure of the Afghan people and they should be made to ponder that while living in the world they failed to prevent, not blighting the rest of the world, and moaning endlessly, about how everybody else failed them.
The West is NOT responsible for everyone else’s choices, or failures, We might, perhaps foolishly, intervene to help common cause, but ultimately it is for the people of the country to decide (which is possibly why we failed in Afghanistan) and if the West then give the people who are most responsible for a countries unrest, a bolt hole when things get tough then we (the West) will never prevail.
Oh, and just to make clear, as far as I’m concerned with regards to Afghan interpreters, We were helping them, NOT them helping us. It was their country, not ours. If Afghans didn’t come forward in sufficient numbers, or fight with enough zeal, then it is their fault that events, such as they are, have come to pass and the fault of our politicos and advisors for not spotting or confessing to the real situation much, much, earlier.

Last edited 9 months ago by Tom Lewis
Matty D
Matty D
9 months ago
Reply to  Tom Lewis

Yes, they should have got off their backsides and stopped 9/11. And stopped flooding the U.K. with heroin.

Ultimately, the people of that country haven’t decided. A group of armed thugs has decided. And if you’re happy with that, you would be happy for ISIS to take over Iraq, and then to start plotting terrorism in the U.K.

Franz Von Peppercorn
Franz Von Peppercorn
9 months ago
Reply to  Matty D

You seem to miss that terrorism is often caused by migrants or their descendants. And that many of these, particularly those born here are unhappy with the wars we wage but you seem to support. We don’t have any moral responsibility to nation build. If a country causes terrorism a few bombing attacks would be a response. But you mentioned Iraq which is where it is because of a stupid and unnecessary war.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
9 months ago

Stewart is engaged in Olympic standard virtue signalling without thought for the consequences. That he was ever a Conservative MP shows just how far that party has fallen and how narrow the pool of talent from which it draws. Let us consider the implications of his policy – the sudden arrival in the west of millions at a time of huge economic uncertainty and smouldering social unrest; the arrival of people who may not be Taliban supporters but may well share a number of that group’s assumptions. No thought given to the possible inclusion in their number of dangerous “agents provocateurs”; no heeding the reasonable objections of European populations, and an inbuilt dictatorial assumption that they will “come to heel”. The principle established that whenever a state fails, half its people can decamp to the west. Consequent weakening of any resolve on the part of those who oppose some odious regime to stay on and resist it. Really, the list of objections is so plain and so unanswerable, one wonders what our ex-MP is up to? Ingratiating himself with his “liberal” upper middle class circles, I daresay.

Matty D
Matty D
9 months ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

But we have just opened the doors to 5 million people from Hong Kong. We allowed many in from Uganda in 1972. We took in kinder transport children from Germany. The U.K. has a proud history of doing this. And we have become a better country as a result

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
9 months ago
Reply to  Matty D

Five million from Hong Kong, umpteen million from Afghanistan, the usual flood from everywhere else – I presume you’re not on the housing ladder or waiting for an NHS appointment or trying to wring an education for your kids from a polyglot classroom? So on what basis can you claim that “we’re a better country”? We haven’t even built a sufficient number of homes for the people now here. There is also an energy crisis brewing, thanks to “green” dogma. Even assuming we manage to build sufficient dwellings, how are they to be heated? As for your slapdash references – I cannot dignify them with the name of statistic – they are wilfully inaccurate. For your information, the numbers from Uganda were limited to about forty thousand. When talking of millions, one is talking of total transformation. You want the whole country covered in high rise flats? Or, like the late Robin Cook, do you boil it down to a case of more Chicken Tikka Masala? And when you say “we have become better” the togetherness implied in that pronoun will be shattered by your abuse of Britain’s good nature.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
9 months ago
Reply to  Matty D

Those 3 groups have been the most successful immigrants into UK since the Huguenots of 1600 – all exemplary immigrants, great value added business, education, almost no crime and no social benefit uptake.

Sadly the Afghani migrants are not like those ones.

Dustin Needle
Dustin Needle
9 months ago
Reply to  Matty D

Kinder transport children was an utterly unique moment in history and achieved against the odds by every single person involved. It should not get randomly dropped into these debates – other than to illustrate the range of effort and compromise required, by all involved, to assimilate newcomers into our society.
The achievement took many years, encountered plenty of resistance and prejudice along the way, but ultimately prevailed because all involved felt the advantages in assimilation in British society.

Bob Bobbington
Bob Bobbington
9 months ago
Reply to  Matty D

Thousands of traumatised young girls in Rochdale, Rotherham, Telford, Oxford and towns around the country would beg to differ.

As would the victims of Salman Abedi, Usman Khan, etc.

Franz Von Peppercorn
Franz Von Peppercorn
9 months ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

Yes. Erdogan and the Belorussian president – can’t be bothered checking the name – threaten Europe with refugees. Stewart demands refugees.

He is one of those Tory elites who seems to have flirted in and out of diplomatic roles (including in Iraq post war – great work), he walked across west Asia including Afghanistan, and a strange stint on Kabul with the mysterious Turquoise Mountain foundation, part funded by Saudi Arabia. A spook no doubt. This is our new ruling class, they fail upwards, feed like carcasses on war torn areas, wars they support, and then demand society pays when their diplomacy.

Mirax Path
Mirax Path
9 months ago

With guilt trippers like Rory Stewart, the Uk needs no enemies. Apart from allowing asylum to Afghans who worked with British forces, there is no further obligaton. Let them live in Pakistan or Iran, both of which offer cultures and values closer to traditional Afghani culture.

Matty D
Matty D
9 months ago
Reply to  Mirax Path

What about the families of those who worked with us. What about the officials who tried to make it work, but now face persecution? There’s a lot of people we should help, and they will help this country if we let them.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
9 months ago
Reply to  Matty D

Piffle. Britain never voted for rash involvement in Afghanistan; nor did it vote for Biden’s incompetent withdrawal. It therefore has not a scintilla of obligation to those who have been let down by asinine globalist politicos. Rather than giving way to floods of migration we should let the whole world know that if they want the goods of the west, they must themselves embrace western ways and do so at home – and no, not the imbecile leftism of today’s west but the liberal capitalist individualism of heretofore. If the Taliban is not the majority then the majority should be able to overthrow them. The obligation, such as it may be, concerns America – and it should be strictly limited to those who were involved in the American-backed regime.

Last edited 9 months ago by Simon Denis
Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
9 months ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

A slightly naive view of foreign policy with its implication that international relations – should be based on votes and in effect ever changing, manipulable and emotive public opinion. There is also a load of 20 20 hindsight going on with some right of centre commentators, including former neoconservative interventionists, who include Douglas Murray, now deciding that the intervievention was a disaster and every single soldier should be withdrawn. In my view we certainly have a moral obligation to those who were actively assisting Western forces, but I agree not to allow millions of Aghan civilians to settle here.

Last edited 9 months ago by Andrew Fisher
Simon Denis
Simon Denis
9 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

The centre right do not operate as a bloc. You may recall an old distinction between neo-cons and paleo-cons – heavy handed American journalese, but pointing to a real difference. Authentic conservatives are not in favour of the sudden overthrow of existing regimes with a view to changing the culture or “state building”, unless they do so from a position of overwhelming strength and prestige. Hence, following the example of Rome, Britain was able to Anglicise India to a small but lasting degree; and France had some success in Gallicising Algeria – why? Because they were there for decades in sufficient force. The Wolfowitz / Rumsfeld doctrine, that such things could be achieved in weeks, thanks to shock and awe and the alleged “end of history”, always owed more to progressivist and even Marxist notions than to anything authentically right wing. You may surmise from all this that I, for one, never supported the Iraq adventure and considered intrusion into Afghanistan a grotesque mistake. A fraction of the billions poured into these military follies might have been profitably devoted to security at home, which is where it counts.

William Cameron
William Cameron
9 months ago

Rory Stewart wasn’t dubbed “Florence of Belgravia” by his troops for nothing.
We should offer a home to anyone who we paid to work for us if they want to come- that is not many millions. More like a few hundred.

Mel Shaw
Mel Shaw
9 months ago

If they have been on our payroll, fine. Otherwise, emphatically, no.

Last edited 9 months ago by Mel Shaw
Tom Watson
Tom Watson
9 months ago

The last few weeks have been reckless? What were the previous 20 years then?

David Simpson
David Simpson
9 months ago

I am genuinely disappointed by Rory Stewart’s reaction. He knows better than anyone that the Afghan people do not and have never liked invaders, of any stripe, whether British (at least 2 attempts in the 19th century, both catastrophic, for the Brits) ditto Russia, ditto America. In the 1960s and 70s, Afghanistan was a beautiful happy country – it has been turned into a shithole by foreigners. Leave them (all) alone to work out their own destiny. Their hosting of bin Laden et al was entirely a consequence of the meddling in their country by the USA and Pakistan. And exporting their brightest and best, as has happened in so many other countries, does them no favours. Ugandan Asians and Hong Kong Chinese are in no way equivalent to the Afghan people as a whole (which the blessed Rory appears to want us to open our doors to). It just looks like cheap politics and desperate virtue signalling on Rory’s part.

Last edited 9 months ago by David Simpson
Walter Morgan
Walter Morgan
9 months ago

There’s a bit of a difference between offering help to 20,000 people as Canada has done and millions. Unless the government or Labour for that matter want to commit electoral suicide then numbers will have to be kept to a few thousand. Mr Blair got us into this and Brown Cameron and Johnson kept us there. It’s a bi-partisan failure. They should have listened to the late Donald Rumsfeld. Go in rout the Taliban and get out.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
9 months ago

Who gives a monkeys what Skeletor thinks?

David Bell
David Bell
9 months ago

Report today from Indonesia that Afghans who reached that se asian country some time ago now say they are desparate to leave by boat for Australia. They “prefer to risk death at sea rather than stay in Indonesia”.

Franz Von Peppercorn
Franz Von Peppercorn
9 months ago

Invade the world. Invite the world. Invite the world from the places you invaded.

Matty D
Matty D
9 months ago

Why is it commentators on the ‘Left’? The need to help Afghan refugees escape a regime which is potentially a new Khmer Rouge is compelling, apolitical and immediate. Helping those who need to escape is an international obligation, and one that will bring immense benefit to the U.K.

Sharon Overy
Sharon Overy
9 months ago
Reply to  Matty D

What ‘immense benefits’ do you imagine the mass importation of Afghans will bring to the country?

Anna Bramwell
Anna Bramwell
9 months ago
Reply to  Matty D

But why do they need to escape to the west? There are dozens of Muslim countries circling Afghanistan. Tajikistan, Kirghistan, Pakistan, Iran, etc.

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
9 months ago
Reply to  Anna Bramwell

I think that is the key point to this whole conversation !