Government Doubles Aid Spending On Afghanistan, Reversing Controversial Cut
The government has announced it is doubling aid spending on Afghanistan in anticipation of a humanitarian crisis in the country, after setting out plans to slash it just weeks ago.
Prime Minster Boris Johnson's spokesperson said on Wednesday that the government was "doubling" aid spending on Afghanistan after the country fell into the control of the Taliban last week.
Just last month the government pressed ahead with controversial plans to slash the UK's annual foreign aid spending from 0.07% of GDP to 0.5%.
This was set to result in a significant reduction in the amount of aid given to Afghanistan, with the House of Commons library in July estimating the decrease could be as large as 78% — though it stressed the data was incomplete and that the final figure might be different.
However, Johnson's spokesperson said the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan, where the Taliban has swept across the country and seized capital Kabul following the withdrawal of US and UK troops, justified raising UK aid to the country close to 2019 levels.
"I think people would accept that when the situation changes on the ground we need to act accordingly, and that's what we've done," they said.
The spokesperson stressed that the money would not be given to Taliban, which now effectively controls Afghanistan, but "used in conjunction with the UN and in other routes that may be agreed through the G7 and NATO."
There had been confusion over exactly how much the government planned to spend on aid to Afghanistan in response to the crisis there after Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on Tuesday said it planned to increase spending "probably" by 10%.
The crisis in Afghanistan prompted the recalling of Parliament on Wednesday, with Johnson kicking off a five-hour debate by insisting the government was not unprepared for what has unfolded since UK and US troops withdrew.
The government is now racing to evacuate officials, passport holders, and Afghans who have helped the UK's 20-year operation in the country amid fears of brutal reprisals by Taliban militants.
Last night the Home Office announced a bespoke resettlement scheme would see 20,000 Afghan refugees welcomed to Britain over the next five years, with around 5,000 expected in the first year, with priority given to women, children and other groups deemed most at threat from the Taliban.
The government's response to events in Afghanistan was criticised from all sides in today's debate.
Theresa May, Johnson's predecessor, said the situation in Afghanistan was a "major setback" for UK foreign policy and described the UK failure to assemble an international coalition for addressing the crisis after the US withdrawal was "incomprehensible and worrying."
"What must also be of key concern to us is the message this sends around the world to those who would do the West harm," the former Prime Minister said.
"What does it say about us as a country, what does it say about Nato if we are entirely dependent on a unilateral decision taken by the United States?"
Labour leader Keir Starmer accused the government of "appalling complacency" and attacked Johnson for Raab for being on holiday when the Taliban began its final advance on Kabul.
"You cannot coordinate an international response from the beach," he said.
Starmer said Raab "didn't even speak to ambassadors in the region as Kabul fell to the Taliban" and accused both the Foreign Secretary and Prime Minister of "a dereliction of duty".
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