UK forces should stay in Afghanistan for as long as required, says Sturgeon

Nicola Sturgeon has warned against a “cut-and-run operation” in Afghanistan and said Nato countries should remain for as long as required.

A deadline of August 31 has been agreed with the Taliban for western forces to leave, but the UK Government has said not everyone eligible for evacuation will be airlifted out.

Armed forces minister James Heappey has said approximately 1,800 UK nationals and more than 2,200 Afghans who helped British forces are the “focus” of the Government’s evacuation efforts.

But after Defence Secretary Ben Wallace conceded Britain’s involvement will end when the US withdraws from Afghanistan, Scotland’s First Minister said there was a “massive responsibility” to stay and help.

Speaking to the PA news agency, Ms Sturgeon said: “I support calls to ensure that there isn’t a cut-and-run operation in Afghanistan, that Nato countries are there and meeting their responsibilities for as long as is necessary.

“I think it is deeply regrettable that the current situation we’re seeing unfold right now has been allowed to develop in the way that it has, but we have to go forward from where we are right now.

“The world has a massive responsibility towards people in Afghanistan and it’s really important that that responsibility is lived up to.”

Asked how many refugees Scotland would accept, Ms Sturgeon said: “I’m hoping those discussions will continue and intensify over the coming days. There’s been some correspondence between myself and Boris Johnson and between my ministers and UK Government ministers.

Boris Johnson visit to Scotland
Nicola Sturgeon said she has told Boris Johnson Scotland is ‘ready and willing’ to welcome Afghan refugees (Duncan McGlynn/PA)

“We don’t yet have a number that Scotland will welcome here, but I hope to get to that as soon as practically possible.

“Scotland stands ready and willing.

“There’s lots of work to be done – lots of practical arrangements – but as well as living up to our responsibility to give refuge to people fleeing horrific circumstances like those seen in Afghanistan right now, we stand to gain a lot as well.

“Many of the Syrian refugees who came here are contributing massively to Scotland, they’re establishing businesses and working to make a contribution.

“So this is not just one-way traffic, there are lots of mutual benefits here.”