Uk News A year on, the botched evacuation from Afghanistan still shames Britain United Kingdom news

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Uk News A year on, the botched evacuation from Afghanistan still shames Britain United Kingdom news

PremierLeague-News.Com -

Uk News A year on, the botched evacuation from Afghanistan still shames Britain United Kingdom news
14 August 2022 - 06:02

PremierLeague-News.Com - Breaking Sport Transfer News ! It already seems a strangely distant memory. But a year ago this week, as the US, Britain and their Nato allies prepared to bring out the last of their troops from Afghanistan, the Taliban, already in control of two-thirds of the country, was surging towards Kabul.The UK’s in-country diplomatic staff (except Ambassador Sir Laurie Bristow) were already leaving the embassy. One of the biggest British evacuations since the Second World War would start the following day. And Boris Johnson, who had told the Commons in July “there is no military path to victory for the Taliban”, the foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, and Foreign Office permanent secretary, Sir Philip Barton, were all on holiday.Historians will debate the consequences of the bitterly criticised US-led decision to withdraw from Afghanistan. Did it, as a sign of Western weakness, embolden Putin to invade Ukraine?But what’s clear is that the manner in which the UK withdrawal was managed from London was – as described this year by the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee – “a disaster and a betrayal of our allies that will damage the UK’s interests for years to come”. And for which all the principal figures involved have escaped with impunity.Operationally, the fortnight-long evacuation of 15,000 people – UK nationals and Afghans identified as deserving safe passage – was a signal achievement by courageous and dedicated British servicemen and civilian personnel on the ground. But on a strategic and humanitarian level, the operation – characterised for television viewers across the world by the indelibly harrowing pictures of desperate Afghans clinging to departing planes at Kabul airport – was a case study in Whitehall mismanagement, inter-departmental dysfunction and Cabinet-level back-covering.That select committee report, one of the most devastating parliamentary indictments ever on the workings of government in general and of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) in particular, demands a fresh – and deeply sobering – re-read a year on from the evacuation debacle. That’s not least for the testimony by brave whistleblowers like the senior FCDO official, Josie Stewart, who said she had “never in my career seen anything within the civil service so badly managed”.Those failings directly affected the many Afghans who were left behind but whom Britain had a clear moral duty to evacuate for their safety – both those who had worked directly for the embassy or the military and those who had risked co-operating with the UK in promoting Western values.The routine excuse for the dismal failure to have a robust evacuation plan was the unexpected speed with which the Taliban seized control of the country. Yet the Government had known for 18 months that they might need one sooner or later.The Ministry of Defence did belatedly draw one up in December 2020, for the first category, but woefully underestimated the numbers of applicants, many of whom were wrongly rejected or had no response by the time Kabul fell. On the second category (those who had risked co-operating with the UK), there was no plan at all and the FCDO only tried to devise one – under pressure from MPs – after the fall of Kabul on 15 August.This generated the ensuing chaos: a woefully understaffed FCDO team, many without prior knowledge of Afghanistan, struggling against a blizzard of emails from desperate Afghans, some of which went unread, and often prioritising applications on the basis of “who happened to open or forward which random email”.Planning failure also made less surprising the scandalous fact that details of some UK Afghan contacts still in the country were left in the embassy for the Taliban to find.

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. Nothing better illustrated its obfuscation than that over the permission for the animal charity Nowzad’s founder, Paul Farthing, to leave with his animals but without other human passengers on a 230-seat private aircraft on 25 August when Afghan applicants were no longer being called for evacuation.Farthing’s application to leave with his staff and animals was referred to the National Security Adviser Sir Stephen Lovegrove, who promised to seek “clear guidance from No 10” and subsequently authorised it. Many FCDO officials believe the clearance came from Johnson, perhaps at the instigation of his wife.But faced with Johnson’s denial, a repeatedly shifting version of events by Sir Philip Barton (who unbelievably did not return from holiday until 26 August when the civilian evacuation was over) and Lovegrove’s assertion that he could “not remember” whom he consulted, the Committee could only conclude: “The fact that nobody can state who made the decision… suggests at best that the political leadership was chaotic and at worst that senior figures are not telling the truth.”More from OpinionSwimming pool closures are detrimental to communities, I found solace in ours aged 4013 August, 2022The 'blue wall brigade' could be toughest challenge for Truss13 August, 2022Cost of living measures are failing Muslims and ignoring that minorities are at higher risk13 August, 2022So who was prepared to take the blame for the whole sorry saga? Not ministers, of course. Yet politically, the UK signally failed – despite severe doubts in the British military – to push back against the original US decision. Characteristically, Raab blamed this on officials’ “optimism bias” – a piece of buck passing which simply does not hold up. Raab himself did so little to prepare for the worst in the run-up to August that he seemed to think there was nothing to worry about.Yet what has happened since? Thousands of Afghans who worked for or with the UK are still being obstructed by the Home Office from escaping the Taliban. Thousands of others who did make it to the UK are still trapped in often substandard hotel accommodation.Raab, who like Johnson came back from holiday on 15 August and whose only “mea culpa” is to admit he should have returned earlier, was admittedly shunted to the Ministry of Justice where he is now busy curbing judges’ powers to challenge ministerial decisions. Sir Philip Barton, who the committee said should “consider his position”, is still comfortably in post. And as identified last month in an Institute for Government report, morale in the FCDO has understandably nosedived.In the past two years, Britain’s international influence and prestige has reached a new low thanks to Brexit and the Government’s subsequent willingness to abrogate its treaty with the EU. But perhaps nothing better illustrates the UK’s incapacity to do internationally what it once did so well than the Afghanistan evacuation fiasco.A new foreign secretary needs to begin the long task of rebuilding the country’s international reputation. It may not have been edifying to see Tom Tugendhat clambering aboard the Liz Truss bandwagon once he saw she was in front, but as the principal author of that excoriating report he might be the most suitable candidate to succeed her at the FCDO.At least he knows better than most what went so badly wrong a year ago.

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