Isabel Hardman Isabel Hardman

How MPs can make the Afghanistan debate matter

Can Britain help prevent the country becoming an exporter of terror?

It is very easy to dismiss Wednesday’s recall of Parliament as a pointless exercise in handwringing that sums up the way most MPs approach foreign policy. There will certainly be plenty of frustrating hindsight on offer from politicians who haven’t taken a blind bit of notice of Afghanistan right up until the point where they scent an opportunity to bash the government. But there are also important questions to be answered that cannot wait for the normal return of the Commons in September.

The first is whether there is any likelihood of British and NATO troops returning to the country. This morning on the Today programme, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace explained that the military could still deal with a growing terror threat from Afghanistan through cyber or ‘kinetic strike’, but made very clear that while ‘we have a range of capabilities to deal with it, it is not as good or optimal as being in the country’. He has not shied away from criticising the US’s decision to leave in the way it did or with the timing it chose, and today said ‘it is too late for Afghanistan’ when it came to trying to stabilise the country to prevent the return of groups such as al-Qaeda. MPs will need to probe just what he means by ‘too late’ in the context of preventing the country from becoming an exporter of terror again.

There are Conservative backbenchers such as Julian Lewis who have been arguing that the UK must reserve the right to launch fresh military action in the country: they will press the government again on whether this will be the case and what the trigger points are.

It will be unbearably tempting for the Labour party to make this about who was on holiday when

On a diplomatic level, the UK needs to work out how it would get approval for such action against terror groups from the UN Security Council.

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