Parliament was given its first chance to vote a substantive motion on the Afghan war this month for the first time since the 2001 invasion, but half of the 650 MPs did not bother to turn up or abstained.
As a result, there was an overwhelming majority of the remainder who voted 310 to 14 to support the continued deployment of UK armed forces in Afghanistan. Among those voting in favour were Conservative’s two Muslim MPs, Sajid Javid and Rehman Chisti, as well as the first Iraqi Kurd, Nadhim Zahawi, while all six of Labour’s Muslim representatives abstained.
During the debate, Labour MP David Winnock paid tribute both to the British soldiers who have died in Afghanistan and those who have been seriously injured. But turning to the issue, he said it was “the duty and obligation of every member to speak their mind.” With regard to any criticism, he said it should not be seen “in any way a betrayal of our British troops.”
Following the vote, MPs decided to set up a cross-party group on Afghanistan to voice in public what many more of them say in private that “the war in Afghanistan is pointless and unwinnable and the sooner British troops come home the better.”
“At the moment Parliament is not doing its job. The majority of the public would like to see the troops home before Christmas, and Parliament is not reflecting that. The Government and all the main politicians are in denial on this. They are divorced from reality,” said veteran Labour MP, Brian Flynn, one of the members of the new group.
Green Party Leader, Caroline Lucas, also launched a new Early Day Motion to seek support from MPs opposed to the Afghan war and calling for the withdrawal of Britain’s 9,500 troops. Lucas referred to “the failure of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan to contain the Taliban.” The transition to Afghan control is “not taking place,” she said, while also warning that the strategic objectives are “not being met.”