The UK’s tumultuous withdrawal from Afghanistan last year showed a “systematic failure of leadership, planning and preparation”, according to a scathing parliamentary inquiry released on Tuesday.
An investigation by the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee revealed “a fundamental lack of planning, determination or leadership during the national emergency” before and during the Taliban’s occupation of Kabul in August 2021.
“Our withdrawal from Afghanistan was a catastrophe and a betrayal of our allies that would harm UK interests for years to come,” the report said.
Already in August, the government has faced a storm of criticism for its hasty withdrawal following its decision to end its 20-year presence in the allied United States.
Hundreds of Afghans eligible for relocation were left behind, with the lives of many at risk after details of staff and job applicants were left in the abandoned compound of the British embassy in Kabul.
At the time, Prime Minister Boris Johnson welcomed a mission “in contrast to what we have seen in our lifetime” in which the UK airlifted more than 15,000 people in two weeks.
The then-foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, was sharply criticized for not taking a leave of absence from the beach immediately after the Taliban took control.
Foreign Office ‘Resident’
Committee members have spoken to UK officials about Afghans who have been removed and have received evidence from “broad stakeholders”.
During the run-up to the Taliban occupation, the report said, the government and civilian officials were “biased” in the hope that the United States would change its mind about withdrawing, even though it was announced by President Donald Trump in February 2020.
“Washington’s decision to withdraw the UK government has failed miserably to predict the pace of Taliban occupation, or to plan and prepare for the removal of our Afghan partners.”
“Despite knowing 18 months before the fall of Afghanistan that Afghanistan may need to fall, the complete absence of a plan to evacuate Afghans supporting the UK mission, even if not directly employed by the UK government, is most detrimental to the State Department.”
In response to the committee’s questions, which began work on the report in September, the State Department “deliberately avoided and often provided deliberately misleading answers.”
Instead, two whistleblowers testified before the committee.
“Those who lead the State Department should be ashamed that civilian employees of great integrity feel compelled to risk their careers to bring the situation to light,” the report said.
At the top
The report highlights the lack of a line of command within the government and “investigative and irresponsible political interference.”
The removal of about 150 dogs and cats from his newborn animal charity on a privately chartered plane after Johnson’s intervention was particularly controversial.
“Senior officials believed that the prime minister had played a greater role than acknowledging some of the decisions,” the report said.
The State Department’s top civilian official, Philip Burton, now “should consider his position”, the report said, urging him to resign effectively.
Conservative MP Tom Tugenhat, chairman of the committee, said: “The UK’s role in this tragedy reflects a lack of importance in achieving coordination, a lack of clear decision-making, a lack of leadership and a lack of accountability.
“At a time when we are facing critical foreign policy challenges, and the risks to our lives and the economy are so serious, including the current power and inflationary pressures, our diplomacy and security cannot be so confused and disorganized.”
The committee called on the government to “commit to a serious strategy for future engagement with Afghanistan”, warning that “attempts to completely dismantle the new regime could only hurt the Afghan people and leave a void for China to fill.”
“Failing to do so would abandon women and girls as opposed to the single greatest rights in a generation,” it says.
It called on the UK to re-establish a diplomatic presence “as soon as it is safe to do so, and to work with those who can support civil society”.
(This story was not edited by NDTV staff and was automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)