LONDON (Arab News) –
Britain’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan was a “disaster and betrayal” hampered by a lack of leadership from senior politicians and civil servants, the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee said in a report released Tuesday.
The committee criticized the Foreign Office for the “total absence” of a plan for evacuating Afghans who supported the UK mission despite knowing for 18 months that such an evacuation might be necessary.
This was compounded by the fact that there seemed to be no clear lines of leadership among political leaders, with decisions made on the basis of “untraceable and unaccountable political interventions,” the committee said in its report.
“The fact that the Foreign Office’s senior leaders were on holiday when Kabul fell marks a fundamental lack of seriousness, grip or leadership at a time of national emergency,” the committee said.
The British government faced blistering criticism for following the decision of its ally, the U.S., 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.
The report was based on an eight-month inquiry during which the committee heard testimony from 20 witnesses and reviewed written evidence from 36 organizations.
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.