UK MPs blast ‘systemic failures’ during Afghan withdrawal

Published May 25, 2022
US soldiers stand guard behind barbed wire as Afghans sit on a roadside near the military part of the airport in Kabul. — AFP/File
US soldiers stand guard behind barbed wire as Afghans sit on a roadside near the military part of the airport in Kabul. — AFP/File

LONDON: The UK’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan last year showed “systemic failures of leadership, planning and preparation”, according to a scathing inquiry by MPs published on Tuesday.

The House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee probe revealed a “fundamental lack of planning, grip or leadership at a time of national emergency” before and during the Taliban takeover of Kabul in August 2021.

“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,” the report said.

Already in August, the government faced a torrent of criticism over its hurried withdrawal following the decision of its ally the United States to end its 20-year presence.

Hundreds of Afghans eligible for relocation were left behind, many with their lives potentially at risk after details of staff and job applicants were left at the abandoned British embassy compound in Kabul.

At the time, Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed a mission “unlike anything we have seen in our lifetimes” with the UK airlifting over 15,000 people in two weeks.

The foreign secretary at the time, Dominic Raab, was heavily criticised for not immediately leaving a beach holiday when the Taliban took control.

Committee MPs spoke with UK officials as well as Afghans who were evacuated, and received evidence from a “wide range of stakeholders”.

Published in Dawn, May 25th, 2022

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