British Foreign Office under fire from critics

Twenty years of British military presence in Afghanistan came to an end, in emotion and pain. As Royal Air Force planes landed at Brize Norton base in Oxfordshire (England), evacuating the last British soldiers from Kabul, Sunday August 29, the controversy grew against the government of Boris Johnson, and especially the Foreign Office. The latter is accused of not having sufficiently anticipated and poorly executed the biggest evacuation operation since World War II – 15,000 civilians have been repatriated to the United Kingdom since mid-August, including 5,000 British citizens and more than 8,000 Afghans threatened by the new Taliban regime.

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Sunday weekly The Observer, quoting an anonymous whistleblower, thus affirms that 5,000 emails, requests for urgent assistance for Afghan or bi-national families, were not even opened by the officials of the ministry for foreign affairs, probably overwhelmed by the task. A message from Labor Party leader Keir Starmer, sent on Monday, August 23, had still not been read by the following Thursday. Others, from the services of Victoria Atkins, the newly appointed Secretary of State for Afghan Reception, the Chairman of the House of Commons Defense Committee, Tobias Ellwood, and even the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, also appeared not to have been read, according to the newspaper.

L’Observer suggested on Sunday that thousands of “Left behind” would unfortunately be affected, much more than the 1,100 Afghans could not be repatriated by the British forces, a figure put forward by Ben Wallace, the Minister of Defense, a few days ago. “We worked tirelessly around the clock. (…) We have, from the start, warned that due to the security situation in Afghanistan, we would not be able to evacuate everyone ”, reacted a spokesperson for the Foreign Office in the columns of theObserver.

In Kabul, fear and incomprehension

“That so many emails have not been read is not the fault of the officials but of the ministers who did not act enough during this whole crisis”, Mr. Starmer estimated. “This government was absolutely not ready for this Afghan crisis, it is an unprecedented moment of shame”, Lisa Nandy, Foreign Affairs Officer in the Labor Party’s “shadow cabinet”, added on Sky News. One after another, the national media gave the floor to Afghans or British citizens who remained in Kabul, expressing their incomprehension and their fear.

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