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What is the scandal of Afghanistan?

By Dr Owen Thomas

This blog is based a talk given as part of the “Reflections for “Twenty Years of the Global War on Terror: Looking back, looking forward” event, jointly hosted by the Secrecy, Power and Ignorance research Network (SPIN) and the South West Doctoral Training Partnership on 8th September, 2021.

This month, two parliamentary select committees have announced that they will hold inquiries into aspects of the UK’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. An ‘Afghanistan Inquiry’ has been called for many times in 2021.1 But reaction to the Taliban’s unexpectedly sudden seizure of Kabul and the West’s rapid evacuation has hastened and sharpened these calls, such that both the Defence Committee and the Foreign Affairs Committee will use much of their inquiries to focus on that withdrawal. A striking feature of the British reaction to that withdrawal was the shock experienced by those who had been involved in two decades of Western operations in Afghanistan. During the BBC’s Question Time, for example, a British military veteran who served in Afghanistan told the panel: “the only way I cannot be utterly embarrassingly humiliated about my service is if we, a democratic nation, hold those responsible to account and have a full parliamentary inquiry.”

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Events

State-Led Inquiries Workshop

On 9th September 2021, we held our virtual workshop ‘State-Led Inquiries as Political Devices: Lessons Learned and Lost from British Interventions, 1853 to the Present Day’ with fascinating contributions from Dr James Strong, Dr Max Drephal, Dr David Saunders, Leyla Belle Drake, Dr Huw Bennett, Dr Louise Kettle, Dr Glen Rangwala, Dr Alan Ingram, and Hannah Richards. We were also incredibly luckly to welcome Professor Richard Toye, Professor Martin Thomas, Dr Tom Bentley, Professor Andrew Williams, and Dr Elspeth van Veeran as discussants for our panellists.

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News

State Violence and Criminal Amnesties

Last week the UK Government announced plans that would see an end to prosecutions, inquests, judicial review and civil claims to 1970s ‘Troubles’ conflict related incidents. Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis outlined plans to introduce a bill to parliament which would block all future prosecutions via a statute of limitations from Autumn 2021. This move has pushed commentators, such as Susan McKay, to ask: how much contempt does this government have for Northern Ireland?

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News

Royal Commissions and Legacies of Colonialism

On 31st March, the UK government published the findings of the Commission on Race and Disparities in, what has been termed, the Sewell Report. In this 258-page report, the Commissioners outlines their key findings about the contexts of racial discrimination and inequality in UK. Despite recognising that the nation is not ‘yet a post-racial society’ (9), the Commission reflects positively on the steps that have been taken towards equality of opportunity within various sectors.

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News

Would a COVID inquiry provide justice?

Popular figures, including author Michael Rosen, have demanded a public inquiry to investigate government failings to the COVID outbreak in the UK. Rosen referred to his personal experience of COVID where he was on a ventilator in an ICU ward during 2020 for six weeks, causing long-term effects on his physical and mental health.