Afzal Amin: 'UK has a duty show the nation’s leadership in the world'

16 Air Assault Brigade
16 Air Assault Brigade

'It seems that the strategic defeat in Afghanistan has shattered the confidence of the West'

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The US has shown that its concern in faraway conflicts, meaning Afghanistan, understandably wanes under pressure from competing interests and of course ongoing resource challenges of people, money and time.

The lack of engagement with neighbouring countries prior to and during the debacle of a withdrawal, let alone future planning, lays bare the limitations of the US’ interest. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a historian, a philosopher and a Classicist knows all too well that in this space Britain now has a unique global role to convene, influence and shape matters going forward.

It seems that the strategic defeat in Afghanistan has shattered the confidence of the West. Too many leaders are now silent and clearly feel they have nothing of value to offer. I think the opposite is true. We have opportunities in front of us which require us to rise to the challenges ahead. Paramount amongst these is the role of a post-Brexit global Britain.

We have the duty now to once again show our nation’s leadership in the world. Britain is a member of the world’s leading bodies, these being the WTO, the UN P5, G7, G20, IMF and as an observer at the Organisation of Islamic Conference which is the second largest organisation in the world. Britain also co-finances projects with the world’s only AAA rated bank, the Islamic Development Bank, working on projects in its member countries.

The region in which Afghanistan sits has a complicated history of difficult relationships. Britain has a 400 year plus experience of engagement there, some of it disastrous, most of it effective and occasionally glorious. None of the G7 countries border Afghanistan and whilst their engagement is necessary it also carries limitations. A new strategy is needed and urgently.

The risks of state collapse brought on by an increase in violence between armed groups along ethnic and religious divides, of humanitarian catastrophes worsened by services and utilities crumbling and the onset of winter make for a grim period ahead.

There are additional risks of increased terrorism, millions of IDPs and refugees and then another decade of bloodshed. As the US steps back we in Britain must step forward. More than an opportunity this is a duty upon all of us who believe in Global Britain, whose faith in our ability to be an influential and global actor is unshaken. Britain carries enormous responsibility in the wake of the withdrawal from Afghanistan and we are uniquely placed to lead the world by charting a route forward.

Britain should now bring together all the actors in the region at head of state or prime ministerial level including China and Iran at a summit held in London. Added to this list of vitally important policy makers should be the military chiefs of the neighbouring countries and the leadership of the international bodies responsible for financing projects; the IMF, World Bank, IDB and ARDB.

The summit will bring together the neighbour countries, regional organisations, world financing organisations, the UN and others to develop a comprehensive plan for the Silk 7 – Afghanistan and its neighbours. Such a summit should have a clear agenda of how we can work together with these regional powers to help build a safe and prosperous Afghanistan, a nation at peace with itself and with its neighbours.