New evidence over UK's 'chaotic' exit from Afghanistan piles pressure on government

New evidence over UK's 'chaotic' exit from Afghanistan piles pressure on government
A parliamentary inquiry into the UK's mishandling of withdrawal from Afghanistan has corroborated damning accounts by Foreign Office whistleblower Rafael Marshall.
2 min read
13 December, 2021
British soldiers board an evacuation flight in Kabul, Afghanistan [Getty]

A UK Parliamentary inquiry has been handed fresh evidence over the government’s mishandling of withdrawal from Afghanistan, according to report in The Observer.

The new information corroborates an account by a Foreign Office whistle-blower Rafael Marshall who alleged that government incompetence “left people to die at the hands of the Taliban.

Thousands of emails to the Foreign Office from MPs and charities detailing urgent cases of Afghans trying to escape from Kabul were not read, including cases flagged by government ministers, according to Marshall. 

Dominic Raab, then Foreign Secretary, had claimed all emails were being read and processed. However, Marshall, a former desk officer at the Foreign Office, had insisted "none of these cases had so far been processed at all".

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On Tuesday, the Parliamentary inquiry investigating the UK’s withdrawal from Afghanistan heard extraordinary accounts from top Foreign Office officials, including one who admitted to remaining on holiday for 11 days after Afghanistan fell to the Taliban. 

Tom Tugendhat, who heads the inquiry, has revealed that several individuals have approached the committee since Tuesday’s hearings to offer further evidence.

I’ve been approached by individuals from other government departments and, indeed, other agencies offering their own perspectives on the events in the run-up to August and the aftermath,” he said.

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Tugendhat described the botched withdrawal as a “whole government failure” which included the Foreign Office, Home Office, and Ministry of Defence, regretting that British allies had been abandoned as a result of the events.

He added that questions remained over the evacuation of nearly 200 dogs and cats from Kabul on a chartered aircraft.

"The Foreign Office officials made it clear that there was absolutely no diversion of resources," said Tugendhat. "They also made it clear that the military opened the gates and took time to get those animals in. How those two statements are compatible, I don’t understand."

In response to the latest developments, a government spokesperson said "staff worked tirelessly to evacuate more than 15,000 people from Afghanistan within a fortnight. This was the biggest mission of its kind in generations and the second largest evacuation carried out by any country. We are still working to help others leave."

On Sunday, the government pledged to support 1.8 million Afghans with life-saving food, and emergency health services as well as shelter, water, and hygiene services.