Britain must be 'lavishly generous' to the Afghans who helped it

Archbishop Justin Welby

Britain owes "an absolute, lavishly generous moral covenant to all those who are at risk because they served with us in Afghanistan or took seriously our frequently professed commitment to its future, women and girls included," the Archbishop of Canterbury has said.

Addressing the House of Lords after Parliament was recalled following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, Archbishop Justin Welby said Britain's actions now must be guided by "morals not numbers".

"The failure we face today is not military or diplomatic: they did all they could. It is political," he said.

"Recovery and hope will come to Afghanistan with us supporting commitment to the neediest and most desperate. We have proven capacities in soft as well as hard power."

The Archbishop said that support must also be extended to Pakistan as it takes in refugees from Afghanistan. 

"We must undertake dialogue and support, learning afresh the religious and cultural literacy which is essential to effective work," he said.

"We must not put any groups there, or in Afghanistan, into a corner where they may be driven to greater extremes.

"The aid we offer must support dialogue, inspire hope and prepare reconciliation. And that aid must be genuinely additional, not a transfer from other places of need." 

He later called for a renewed commitment to freedom of religion and belief as he shared a WhatsApp message from a Christian in Afghanistan who said, "I am willing to die for Jesus, but I do not want to die forgotten."

"My Lords, this is a very bad time, especially for so many in Afghanistan, and for those who served there," the Archbishop added.

"It is a time for prayerful humility – and for us to display generosity, virtue, and courage. Rebuilding our reputation in such ways will give many others hope as well." 

The UK has promised to take in 20,000 Afghan refugees, with priority going to women and girls.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK owed "a debt of gratitude to all those who have worked with us to make Afghanistan a better place over the last 20 years". 

"Many of them, particularly women, are now in urgent need of our help," he said.