'Britain is full': Tory MP insists Afghans should fight rather than flee the Taliban

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DUSHANBE, TAJIKISTAN - FEBRUARY 17: British Minister of State for International Development Desmond Swayne meets Tajikistan's President Emomali Rahmon (not seen) during his official visit in Dushanbe, Tajikistan on February 17, 2016. (Photo by Tajikistan Presidency Press Office/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Former Conservative minister Desmond Swayne has doubled down on his comments. (Getty)

A former Conservative minister has reiterated his suggestion Afghans should stay and fight rather than flee the Taliban.

Sir Desmond Swayne doubled down on comments he made in the Commons on Wednesday when he called into question the decision by some Afghans to flee when their country fell to the regime.

He told GB News: “I think we have to have a sense that the duty of most Afghans will be to hang on in there in their own country, and see what they can do to save it.”

Sir Desmond added the government’s decision to resettle 20,000 Afghan refugees was reasonable but he did not support demands for “hundreds of thousands” to be given asylum as “Britain was full”.

Watch: Sir Keir Starmer slams foreign secretary over Afghanistan response

Read more: Theresa May and ex-ministers round on Boris Johnson in Commons

Opposition MPs heckled Sir Desmond after he intervened on Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer during an emergency debate on the situation in Afghanistan.

Speaking in the Commons, the former international development minister – said: “Were the Government of this kingdom to be overthrown by a wicked and brutal regime, I venture that he would want a leading role in the resistance, he wouldn’t be queuing at the airport would he?”

At this point MPs could be heard voicing their disapproval at Sir Desmond’s comments, with one shouting “disgrace”.

Sir Keir replied: “When I was director of public prosecutions, I had some of my prosecutors in Afghanistan at huge risk working on counterterrorism with other brave souls there.

“So I won’t take that from him or anybody else.”

Sir Keir also slammed the prime minister and foreign secretary for their response to the emergency,

He told them they could not “coordinate an international response from the beach” after they initially chose to take their holiday while the crisis unfolded.

Johnson also faced fierce criticism from senior Tories.

Former prime minister Theresa May said it was “a major setback for British foreign policy” nearly 20 years after UK forces first entered the country in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks on the US.

MP Tory Tom Tugendhat – who served as an Army officer in Afghanistan – added the UK and its Western allies had received a “very harsh lesson”. 

But Johnson told the Commons it is an “illusion” to believe the UK alone could have prevented the collapse of Afghanistan after US troops withdrew.

He said: “I think it would be fair to say that the events in Afghanistan have unfolded and the collapse has been faster than even the Taliban themselves predicted.

“What is not true is to say the UK Government was unprepared or did not foresee this.

“It was certainly part of our planning – the very difficult logistical operation for the withdrawal of UK nationals has been under preparation for many months.”

Read more: Afghanistan Veteran MPs Tell Of 'Anger, Grief And Rage' Over Withdrawal

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN - AUGUST 18: (----EDITORIAL USE ONLY - MANDATORY CREDIT -
Turkey has evacuated its citizens from Afghanistan. (Getty)
HERAT, AFGHANISTAN - AUGUST 18: Taliban patrol in Herat city after took control in Herat, Afghanistan, on August 18, 2021 as Taliban take control of Afghanistan after 20 years. (Photo by Mir Ahmad Firooz Mashoof/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Taliban patrol in Herat city after took control in Afghanistan. (Getty)

The UK has announced plans to resettle 20,000 vulnerable Afghans – particularly women and girls – with 5,000 arriving in the first 12 months.

Johnson said the priority was to evacuate as many of the remaining UK nationals and Afghans who had worked with the British in the country as quickly as possible.

Labour MP Chris Bryant called for the programme to be accelerated, asking: "What are the (other) 15,000 meant to do? Hang around and wait until they've been executed?"

Watch: Dominic Raab fumes at Keir Starmer criticising his Crete holiday during fall of Afghanistan

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