Why we should stay in Afghanistan


I opposed the invasion of Iraq but we are right to be in Afghanistan. Sadly, the country remains blighted by conflict in Helmand, where most of the UK’s 7,500 troops are deployed. Many families here in the UK have lost loved ones over there. With no end yet in sight it is understandable that some commentators are now suggesting that we should get out.

Understandable maybe, but – in my view – wrong. I was in Afghanistan with Parliament’s International Development Committee towards the end of 2007. Even the week-long snapshot I experienced convinced me that we should not abandon the Afghan people. Large parts of the country are much more stable than Helmand. International support has helped build the foundations of democracy and enable thousands of children to go to school. Withdrawal would put all of this at risk.

Afghanistan also remains dreadfully poor; women still face appalling discrimination and most of the heroin that ends up on UK streets comes from Helmand poppy fields. So we have a national interest in helping the Afghan government to tackle these issues as well as a humanitarian responsibility to help the country build a sustainable future. Parts of the international operation must change but we need to stay.

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Richard Burden

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I was Labour Member of Parliament for Birmingham Northfield between 1992 and 2019 and a former Shadow Transport Minister. I now chair Healthwatch in Birmingham and Solihull, and the West Midlands Board of Remembering Srebrenica. I also work as a public affairs consultant. I am an effective community advocate and stakeholder alliance builder with a passion for human rights. I am a trustee of the Balfour Project charity and of Citizens Advice Birmingham, and a former Chair of Medical Aid for Palestinians.

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You can reach me by email at richard@richardburden.com or use the form on the Contact page to send me a message.