Why the Foreign Affairs committee has ruled the Afghanistan withdrawal to be a disaster

The UK’s response to the Afghanistan crisis has been found to be a disaster.

While it had appeared self-evident covering it at the time, a report by the Foreign Affairs committee has officially examined the full response and found the process will damage the foreign country for years.

In its report, the committee said there had been "systemic failures" of intelligence, diplomacy, and planning.

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It is a report that will spark genuine fury among Tory MPs, so many of whom consider Britain’s foreign policy and internationalist outlook to be an integral part of their patriotism.

Two Afghan children collect recyclable material from a garbage dump in Kabul, Afghanistan. Picture: AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi

Crucially, the report does not come from a partisan body, a think-tank or MPs who oppose the Government.

This is a cross-party group, which has found the UK Government’s response was one of gross “mismanagement” that “likely cost lives".

In a scathing review of the Foreign Office, the report queried why the department's top civil servant, Sir Philip Barton, the then-foreign secretary Dominic Raab and Prime Minister Boris Johnson were all on leave when the Taliban took Afghanistan's capital Kabul.

Mr Raab infamously failed to cut his holiday short, before denying he’d gone paddle boarding by saying “the sea was closed”.

The Foreign Office's top civil servant, Permanent-under secretary Sir Philip Barton has been asked to consider his position

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Sir Philip did not return from his holiday until the civilian evacuation was over. The committee have now said he should resign.

The UK Government has insisted “intensive planning” went into the withdrawal, but everything in the report says otherwise.

It claimed the trio’s absence “marks a fundamental lack of seriousness, grip or leadership at a time of national emergency”.

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office has said it would review and respond to the committee's findings, but there are no guarantees of any immediate fallout or consequence from this.

The US withdrawal certainly sparked the crisis, but MPs feel there was plenty of time and the response should have been better.

Instead of an explanation as to why it wasn’t, the committee reported that it found some of the answers it received evasive and unconvincing.

In short, the findings suggest the withdrawal has both damaged the UK’s reputation and that of the Government among its own MPs.


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