London [UK], May 26 (ANI): Nine months after the western countries withdrew their forces from Afghanistan, a UK Parliamentary committee has found out that the manner of withdrawal from Afghanistan was a disaster and a betrayal of allies that will damage the country’s interests for years to come.
The Taliban took over Afghanistan in mid-August, which led to the collapse of the previous government and mass evacuations from the Kabul airport. As crowds gathered at the airport, the area was hit by terrorist attacks, leading to hundreds of casualties.
Subsequently, western countries, including US and UK, faced a great deal of criticism for the pace and manner with which they withdrew from the country.
In a report titled “Missing in action: UK leadership and the withdrawal from Afghanistan”, the House of Commons Committee identified systemic failures of intelligence, diplomacy, planning and preparation–many of which were due, at least in part, to the Foreign Office, and call into question the coordination that the National Security Council provided.
“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. It might be convenient to blame FCDO officials or military intelligence for these failures, but ministers should have been driving this policy,” the report said.
The fact that the UK 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 report added.
At several key stages in the evacuation there seemed to be no clear line of command within the political leadership of the Government, as decisions were made on the basis of untraceable and unaccountable political interventions.
According to the report authored by UK Foreign Affairs Committee, most damning for the UK 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 hasty effort to select those eligible for evacuation was poorly devised, managed, and staffed; and the department failed to perform the most basic crisis-management functions, the report while adding that the lack of clarity led to confusion and false hope among our Afghan partners who were desperate for rescue.
“They, and the many civil servants and soldiers working hard on the evacuation, were utterly let down by deep failures of leadership in Government. We are full of praise–in particular–for the personnel on the ground in Afghanistan during Operation Pitting, who implemented a chaotic policy to the best of their ability,” the report said.
It further alleged the UK Foreign Office has not been open about these failings.
“In the course of the inquiry, it has given us answers that, in our judgement, are at best intentionally evasive, and often deliberately misleading. Those who lead the department should be ashamed that civil servants of great integrity felt compelled to risk their careers to bring to light the appalling mismanagement of the crisis, and the misleading statements to Parliament that followed,” the report said.
The committee called on the department to undertake a review of its processes for handling internal concerns about policies and, more broadly, to re-commit to transparency and positive engagement with Parliament.
“The crisis required clear decision-making, strong political leadership and tight coordination. We have seen little evidence of this. The decision to run the operation through three departments undermined coordination. This is particularly disturbing at a time when the UK faces significant foreign policy challenges, including in relation to Ukraine,” the report said.
The failures of the withdrawal and evacuation make it even more important that the UK commits to a serious strategy for its future engagement with Afghanistan, it added. (ANI)