IT was dubbed “Operation Warm Welcome”. There’s a terrible irony in that title given that the UK Government’s resettlement scheme for Afghans fleeing the Taliban take-over of their nation has been at best frosty and at worst as ice cold and unwelcoming as the bitter Afghan winter bearing down on the country as I write.

Make no mistake about it, this is a humanitarian catastrophe in the making and months from now no one here in Scotland, the UK or elsewhere in the world will have the excuse of saying that they didn’t see it coming.

This week marked 100 days since the Taliban took power on August 15 this year and right now the situation in the country could scarcely be worse.

Statistics can never truly convey the extent of a people’s suffering, but just pause and ponder these inescapable facts.

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For starters some 95% of Afghanistan’s population will be below the poverty line by the year’s end. Put another way, some 19 million souls cannot feed themselves daily and that will rise to 23 million by the end of December. Among these are 3.2 million children already acutely malnourished and 1.1 million at risk of dying.

The Afghan capital Kabul and other towns and cities across the country have become places where parents are sometimes forced to sell one or more of their female children into early marriage to repay debts or feed the rest of their family.

As this crushing poverty takes hold, child labour has become rife in a land where the young in many areas were seeing a marked improvement in their lives before the West abandoned Afghanistan.

As hospitals overflow with those struck down by illness many staff work on selflessly despite their wages not being paid in months. In fact, the whole financial structure within the country is on its knees with people unable to withdraw what meagre savings they might have had.

The Taliban meanwhile appear to have no plans to deal with the crisis, except for bleating about US sanctions and calling for the release of the $9bn of foreign reserves that sit largely in American banks. There is among their ranks of course never any shortage when it comes to guns, bullets, and other sophisticated weapons. The Taliban will never be the ones to go hungry.

It’s jarring contradictions like these that during my many years as a correspondent have led me to being asked countless times by people why they should care about what happens in places like Afghanistan when others don’t. It’s not my responsibility, goes the familiar refrain or I have enough to contend with taking care of my own life.

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Discomfiting as it is, such views are understandable, and I would be the first to admit that there is no simple or definitive answer to such questions and concerns. That said, I firmly believe that our common sense of humanity still galvanises most people and motivates them when they see their fellow human beings in despair.

WHICH brings me back to that “warm welcome” that Britain was meant to extend to those Afghans under threat from the Taliban and seeking sanctuary here.

So much was made back in August of doing the right things for those Afghans needing our help. The UK Government pledged to relocate up to 20,000 people after the Taliban takeover, but shamefully the scheme has not yet even started and is said by officials to still be at the “design stage”.

Such incompetency is mindboggling if not unsurprising given the track record of Boris Johnson’s cabal. But as campaigners have rightly pointed out as the UK government dithers many more Afghan refugees eligible for the resettlement programme could very well die before it is implemented.

Evidence gathered by human rights activists shows that the Taliban are still targeting those they perceive to have been dissenting voices or who worked with Western organisations before the extremists came to power. All this too, before the threat faced by the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation in the country which is set to take a terrible toll. So why then should all this matter to us?

Well, to begin with that pledge to those refugees was made and it must be honoured pure and simple. But there are other reasons too why it matters, reasons some might argue are born out of self-interest but remain profoundly significant when viewed from a purely pragmatic geo-political perspective.

In short, would it not be better to address the crisis in Afghanistan at source rather than allow another wave of Afghans to take that dangerous journey in search of safety elsewhere including the UK?

Once again here we have Johnson’s government doing what it does best, burying its head in the sand rather than working towards solving a problem before it becomes overwhelming. Two things are urgently needed right now. The first is moving ahead rapidly with the agreed resettlement scheme without further delay.

The second is to improve liaison with those global humanitarian actors who operate inside Afghanistan providing support to help communities offset the worst impact of this impending winter hunger and potential famine.

If this means talking to the Taliban, then so be it. It would not be the first time after all that Britain and the West have had to deal with noxious regimes in the interests of a greater good.

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Of course, there must be constraints on the extent to which we appease the Taliban, and clearly financial leverage is a vital tool in bringing them to heel over good governance and human rights.

That leverage I realise too is having quite an impact within the Taliban’s own ranks, splitting those pragmatists who want to talk and open up to the West and those vociferously opposed to it. Doubtless in Washington, London and elsewhere there are those in shadowy intelligence and military circles more than happy for that to continue.

But payback to the Taliban and undermining its rule – if that is indeed the motive – must take into consideration the lives of countless innocent Afghans that will be lost without an additional multi-pronged humanitarian and diplomatic approach.

At the very least we must live up to the promises made to those Afghans when we hurried out at Washington’s behest after two decades. Once again time is of the essence but now it’s about preventing unimaginable suffering and countless deaths across Afghanistan this winter.