In damning Foreign Affairs Committee report, MPs say Foreign Office, National Security Adviser and ministers must accept responsibility for lack of preparedness or response, abandoning UK allies United Kingdom and damaging the interests of the United Kingdom.

Missing in Action: British leadership and withdrawal from Afghanistan is the result of the committee’s inquiry into government policy towards the country. The committee considered the role of the Foreign Office in preparing for the withdrawal, during the evacuation effort, and in directing the engagement with the new regime in the following months. They heard from senior officials; met with Afghans who have been evacuated; asked MPs’ offices about their efforts to help Afghans; and received written, often sensitive, evidence from a wide range of stakeholders, including two Foreign Office whistleblowers.

The MPs’ inquiry revealed that important political decisions were being made by informal and unaccountable means. Senior officials believed that the Prime Minister had played a greater role in some decisions than had been admitted. The committee did not receive any other plausible explanation. More seriously, the FCDO has provided deliberately evasive and often deliberately misleading answers. Government officials should not be expected to hide the facts to shield others from political accountability.

Today’s report refers to the ‘appalling mismanagement of the crisis’ and subsequent misleading statements to Parliament. Those who run the Foreign Office should be ashamed that officials of high integrity felt compelled to risk their careers to bring the situation to light, the report says. It is the responsibility of the Permanent Under-Secretary to ensure that the system works effectively, leading the committee to conclude that he no longer has their trust and should consider his position.


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The report urges the UK government to commit to a serious strategy for future engagement with Afghanistan. Failure to do so would abandon women and girls in the biggest reversal of rights in a generation.

The committee calls on the government to re-establish a diplomatic presence in Afghanistan as soon as it is safe to do so and to work with those on the ground who can support civil society. Attempts to completely isolate the new regime can only hurt the Afghan people and leave a vacuum for China to fill.

The Taliban have banned all Uyghur “militants” from their territory. It is estimated that around 1 million Uyghur Muslims are imprisoned in Chinese “re-education” camps, where they are subjected to human rights abuses.

Today’s Foreign Affairs Committee report says humanitarian aid alone will not be enough to avert disaster and that the UK should strive to resume development aid where possible , placing Afghan women at the heart of its policy towards the country.

According to the United Nations World Food Programme, up to 20 million people in Afghanistan are in desperate need of food following the drought, the impact of the pandemic and the reduction in foreign aid after the capture of Taliban control.

The chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, MP Tom Tugendhat, said: “The UK’s part in this tragedy reveals a lack of seriousness in coordination, a lack of clear decision-making, a lack of leadership and a lack of responsibility. At a time when we face critical foreign policy challenges and the risks to our lives and our economy are so grave, not least from current energy and inflationary pressures, our diplomacy and security cannot be as confused and unstructured. Unity of purpose, clarity and coordination require serious intent and consistent political leadership.

“The timeline of misery exposed by this report reveals serious systemic failures at the heart of UK foreign policy. The absence of the FCDO’s top leadership – ministerial and official – during the fall of Kabul is a serious indictment for those supposed to be in power. While junior officials have shown courage and integrity, chaotic and arbitrary decisions run through this investigation. Unfortunately, this may have cost many people the opportunity to leave Afghanistan, putting lives at risk. The integrity of the public service depends on those who lead these organizations and who have the courage to speak the truth to the British people.

“There are many heroes in this story who worked under tremendous pressure. Military and civilian personnel on the ground in Afghanistan, and many in the FCDO itself, during the evacuation and those who helped de far deserve our thanks. Today, Afghanistan faces a terrible humanitarian crisis with 23 million people at risk of starvation and the rights of women and girls have suffered their biggest setback in a generation. All this while the threat of extremism has increased.We need a serious overhaul in the UK government to combine diplomacy, aid and trade in a concerted and strategic approach to future policy towards Afghanistan.

A government spokesperson said after the report was released: “Our personnel worked tirelessly to evacuate more than 15,000 people from Afghanistan in a fortnight. It was the largest UK mission of its kind for generations and followed months of intensive planning and collaboration between UK government departments. We continue to work hard to help the Afghan people, having already helped more than 4,600 people to leave the country since the end of the military evacuation.

“We have carried out a thorough review to draw lessons from our withdrawal from Afghanistan and have built on many of the findings of our response to the conflict in Ukraine, including introducing new correspondence management systems and strengthening the oversight of our operational and diplomatic response.”

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