Gavin Strang MP tonight addressed a meeting organised by Portobello and District Council of Churches on ‘War on Terrorism – is there an alternative?’ at 7.30pm in Portobello Parish Church Hall.
Extracts from Gavin Strang’s speech follow:
‘The military action in Afghanistan was controversial.
‘I believe that the military action was necessary. It was right to try to track down the perpetrators of the atrocities in the US on 11 September, and to take action against the Al Qaida network to try to prevent further atrocities. But tragically, many hundreds of innocent people were injured and killed, and the already threadbare infrastructure in Afghanistan will have been further damaged.
‘Whatever view you take of the military action, there is now a moral obligation on the US, Great Britain and the international community to provide resources and support for the reconstruction of Afghanistan.
‘Under the Taliban, many people in Afghanistan were already suffering dreadful hardship. Even before 11 September, four and a half million Afghan refugees were on the move.
‘The military action has removed the Taliban, making future progress possible, but it has also caused further disruption and destruction.
‘It is vital that we help rebuild Afghanistan.
‘It will only be possible for the new administration in Afghanistan to tackle the huge problems facing that country if they do so against a background of progress.
‘If we let down the interim government, if people in Afghanistan do not get the help that they have been led to expect, then the destabilising effect would be disastrous. Support would grow for dissident groups who want to take power from the interim administration.
‘We must not repeat the mistakes of the past.
‘It is widely known that the US backed Pakistan in supporting the factions in Afghanistan who fought the old communist regime, and who became allied to Osama Bin Laden. The communist regime was duly overthrown. But then the outside world walked away. And Afghanistan was left to fall prey to the Taliban.
‘Having taken military action to disable Al Qaida and overthrow the Taliban, it is our duty to help the people of Afghanistan rebuild their country, and we must be prepared to provide help and resources for many years to come.’