Backbench Business — [3rd Allotted Day] — UK Armed Forces in Afghanistan
Mike Gapes (Ilford South, Labour)
No, I cannot take any more interventions; I have to conclude my remarks.
I am conscious that we are dealing with a very difficult issue. There is a global struggle within Islam between a whole spectrum of points of view. There is conflict between Sunnis and Shias and there is conflict within Sunni Islam. That conflict is being fought out within Pakistan and Afghanistan at the moment. It is sometimes attractive for people to think that we can somehow step back, be neutral and avoid being involved in all this because it is nothing to do with us. Some people have a tendency to think that, but more than 1 million British citizens have family connections with that region-with Pakistan. Islam is part of our European culture and our modern world. Given the globalisation of economics and politics, we cannot be neutral in this struggle. We all have to try to assist the moderates and internationalists in this process, and to combat jihadism wherever it is. That does not mean that we must always fight it militarily: we must also fight it intelligently and politically.
It might well be that because of the deadlines set by our Government and the US Administration, because of the lack of wider international support and because of the growing public fear that we have been in this for so long that we have to get out quickly, we will have to accept a very difficult and messy compromise in Afghanistan that will involve some kind of return of Taliban influence or Taliban groups in at least part of the country. However, let us not forget that the wider struggle will still require us to be involved in supporting the democrats, the internationalists and the anti-jihadists in Pakistani society as well as those in Afghanistan. For that reason, I support the motion.