UK MPs decry 'systemic failures' of Afghan withdrawal
According to an inquiry by MPs, the UK's withdrawal from Afghanistan had "systemic failures of leadership, planning, and preparation."
According to a damning report released by MPs on Tuesday, the UK's disorderly withdrawal from Afghanistan last year revealed "systemic failures of leadership, planning, and preparation."
The report detailed how "The manner of our withdrawal from Afghanistan was a disaster and a betrayal of our allies that will damage the UK's interests for years to come."
Hundreds of Afghans eligible for transfer were left behind, with many of their lives potentially jeopardized, as information about personnel and job hopefuls was left inside the abandoned British embassy premises in Kabul.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson lauded an operation "unlike anything we have seen in our lifetimes" at the time, with the UK airlifting almost 15,000 people in two weeks.
Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary at the time, was widely chastised for not quickly abandoning a beach vacation while the messy evacuation was taking place.
MPs on the committee talked with UK officials as well as Afghans who had been evacuated, and heard testimony from a "wide range of stakeholders."
The government and civil officials suffered from an "optimism bias" in the run-up to the Taliban takeover, despite President Donald Trump's announcement of withdrawal in February 2020, according to the research.
"The UK government failed adequately to shape or respond to Washington's decision to withdraw, to predict the speed of the Taliban's takeover, or to plan and prepare for the evacuation of our Afghan partners," it added.
"Most damning for the Foreign Office is the total absence of a plan for evacuating Afghans who supported the UK mission, without being directly employed by the UK government, despite knowing 18 months before the collapse of Afghanistan that an evacuation might be necessary."
The Foreign Office "provided answers that were intentionally evasive and often deliberately misleading" in response to inquiries from the Committee, which began work on the report in September. Instead, two whistleblowers spoke before the committee.
The report added that "Those who lead the Foreign Office should be ashamed that civil servants of great integrity felt compelled to risk their careers to bring the situation to light."
The study emphasized the government's absence of a chain of command and "untraceable and unaccountable political interventions."
Dogs and cats
The evacuation of roughly 150 dogs and cats from Johnson's Nowzad animal charity on a privately leased jet by a British ex-serviceman was particularly contentious.
"Senior officials believed that the prime minister played a greater role in some decisions than has been admitted," the report noted.
The chief civil servant at the Foreign Office, Philip Barton, should now "consider his position," according to the report, effectively calling on him to resign.
Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat, who chairs the committee, stated that "the UK's part in this tragedy exposes a lack of seriousness in achieving coordination, a lack of clear decision-making, a lack of leadership, and a lack of accountability."
"At a time when we face critical foreign policy challenges, and the risks to our lives and economy are so serious, including from the current energy and inflation pressures, our diplomacy and security cannot be so confused and unstructured."
The committee warned the government that a serious new strategy is needed in Afghanistan and that isolating the new regime "may only hurt the Afghan people and leave a vacuum to be filled by China."