Foreign Affairs Committee launches inquiry on UK policy towards Afghanistan
3 September 2021
Today, the Foreign Affairs Committee launches its inquiry into the future of UK policy towards Afghanistan following the international military withdrawal.
The inquiry will examine the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office’s role in the evacuation effort and in planning the response to the Taliban’s takeover.
The Committee will examine the implications of the Taliban gaining power, including for UK security, and the human rights and humanitarian crises in Afghanistan. It will ask what the UK’s objectives should be in its relationship with Afghanistan, including what trade-offs may need to be made with other priorities. The Committee will ask how the UK should approach any opposition or armed resistance to the Taliban.
The inquiry will also look at the broader implications for UK foreign policy, including on the relationship between the UK and US, the Indo-Pacific tilt and overseas aid. The Committee will consider whether the Taliban takeover has affected the role of Russia, China and other powers in the region.
The Committee welcomes evidence on the following topics:
- What should the UK's objectives be in its relationship with Afghanistan? How should these be prioritised, and what trade-offs should be made to achieve them?
- How well did the UK handle the international military withdrawal from Afghanistan, including on cross-Whitehall co-ordination? How effectively did it plan and coordinate with the US, other allies and countries in the region, particularly around the evacuation of those eligible to come to the UK? How can decision making structures be improved?
- What steps is the Government taking – alone and with partners – to mitigate the impact of the Taliban takeover on UK security, with particular reference to terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda and ISIS?
- What are the humanitarian and human rights implications of the Taliban takeover? How can the UK support those at risk – particularly women and girls – both in the immediate and longer term? What steps is the Government taking to do this?
- What does the withdrawal from Afghanistan mean for future UK foreign policy, including relations with the US, the Indo-Pacific tilt, and the strategic approach to overseas aid?
- How does the Taliban takeover affect the role of Russia, China and other powers in the region, and how does this affect UK interests? Where do regional powers’ interests overlap with those of the UK – including on security, migration, and economic ties – and how can the UK work effectively with these states to pursue them?
- How should the UK approach any opposition or armed resistance to the Taliban?
Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Tom Tugendhat MP, said:
“The fall of Kabul is a catastrophe for the Afghan people and for the reputation of those nations that were committed to its success. Our hasty withdrawal leaves a country in an acute humanitarian and human rights crisis. The Afghan people, who we worked alongside for many years, have been left at the mercy of the Taliban, a vicious fundamentalist group.
“While I thank the Foreign Secretary for appearing in front of the Committee at late notice, big questions remain, and this inquiry hopes to provide some much-needed clarity. Lessons need to be learnt and the decisions the UK makes in the coming months will be crucial.
“This inquiry will explore the most pressing and urgent questions we face. What should be the nature of our engagement with a Taliban-led Afghanistan? What should Britain do to accommodate those seeking refuge? And how should it prevent the country becoming a haven for terrorists?
“The true extent of the damage done will only become clear in the coming months and years. However, it is already clear that the world has become more dangerous and unstable.”
Form of written evidence:
Submissions should be no longer than 3,000 words. The main body of any submission should use numbered paragraphs. Each submission should contain:
- a short summary, perhaps in bullet point form;
- a brief introduction about the person or organisation submitting evidence, for example explaining their area of expertise or experience;
- any factual information from which the Committee might be able to draw conclusions, or which could be put to other witnesses;
- any recommendations for action by the Government or others which the submitter would like the Committee to consider for inclusion in its report to the House;
- It is not necessary to address all the terms of reference, submissions can focus on one or more questions.
Submissions should be in malleable format such as MS Word (not PDFs) with no use of colour or logos. Submissions should be arranged in numbered paragraphs.
Guidance on submitting written evidence and data protection information is available here: Guidance on submitting written evidence.
Deadline for submissions
The Committee is asking for initial written evidence to be submitted through the Committee’s web portal by 23.59 on Friday 15 October 2021.
It is recommended that all submitters familiarise themselves with the Guidance on giving evidence to a Select Committee of the House of Commons which outlines particulars of word count, format, document size, and content restrictions.
We encourage members of underrepresented groups to submit written evidence. We aim to have diverse panels of Select Committee witnesses and ask organisations to bear this in mind when we ask them to choose a representative. We are currently monitoring the diversity of our witnesses.
Image: Crown Copyright/Corporal Andrew Morris (RAF)