The chaotic and hasty withdrawal of the US-led allied forces from Afghanistan last year, including the British troops, has been described by the UK lawmakers as “systemic failures of leadership, planning, and preparation”.
A damning inquiry by the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, published on Tuesday, reveals 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 scathing report reads, pointing to the botched exit from the war-ravaged country after 20 years of military occupation.
The British government faced blistering criticism for following the decision of its ally, the US, to hastily abandon the South Asian country last August.
“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,” the report notes.
Hundreds of Afghans eligible for relocation were left behind after the UK pulled out, which drew widespread criticism and condemnation.
“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 report adds.
The cross-party committee started working on the report in September and inquired the Foreign Office, whose answers were “intentionally evasive and often deliberately misleading.”
However, two whistle-blowers provided crucial testimony to the committee.
“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 report states.
The inquiry also highlighted a lack of arrangements and “unaccountable political interventions” referring to the evacuation by a British ex-serviceman of around 150 dogs and cats from his animal charity on a privately chartered plane, which the MPs said absorbed “significant” resources during the chaotic period.
According to the committee’s report, the situation around Nowzad animal charity highlighted the “arbitrary and chaotic” nature of the Foreign Office’s role in the evacuation process.
It also laid the responsibility on Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s door, saying he had the main role in prioritizing the evacuation of Nowzad’s staff over other more vulnerable people caught in the conflict.
“Senior officials believed that the prime minister played a greater role in some decisions than has been admitted,” the report states.