Report: The Brits abandoned most of their Afghan helpers too

Report: The Brits abandoned most of their Afghan helpers too
AP Photo/Matt Dunham

During the chaotic debacle of our withdrawal from Afghanistan in August, even the mainstream media was (briefly) forced to cover the news and recognize how horribly it had been handled. The United States failed to even get all of its own citizens out of the country, to say nothing of all of our translators and other helpers who would face almost certain death if the Taliban got hold of them. This happened despite repeated assurances from the Biden administration that we would get everyone out safely. Sadly, this week we’re learning that it wasn’t just the Americans who dropped the ball in this potentially deadly fashion. Today, a former Foreign Office worker named Raphael Marshall provided evidence to the committee investigating the withdrawal showing that as few as 5% of the Afghan nationals who requested help in escaping the country received it. Thousands of the people who had worked with the British forces in the country never even had their messages read. (Associated Press)

Britain’s Foreign Office abandoned many of the nation’s allies in Afghanistan and left them to the mercy of the Taliban during the fall of the capital, Kabul, because of a dysfunctional and arbitrary evacuation effort, a whistleblower alleged Tuesday.

In devastating evidence to a parliamentary committee, Raphael Marshall said thousands of pleas for help via email were unread between Aug. 21 and Aug. 25. The former Foreign Office employee estimated that only 5% of Afghan nationals who applied to flee under one U.K. program received help. He said that at one point, he was the only person monitoring the inbox.

“There were usually over 5,000 unread emails in the inbox at any given moment, including many unread emails dating from early in August,” he wrote to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, which is investigating Britain’s chaotic departure from Afghanistan.

The evidence presented by the whistleblower looks damning without a doubt. At one point, Marshall was the only person assigned to read and respond to emails from Afghan nationals seeking help in getting out of the country. He demonstrated that during the last week of the withdrawal there were more than 5,000 emails that went unread on any given day because there were simply too many of them to process. Some had heartbreaking subject lines, such as, “Please Save My Children.”

There were even more tragic messages after the final plane lifted off from Kabul. The office received notifications confirming that some of the people who had begged for help wound up being killed by the Taliban in the days and weeks that followed. The Brits did manage to evacuate 15,000 people in the final two weeks and they’ve helped another 3,000 escape since then. But the Foreign Office still has a list of 20,000 more who are waiting to get out and a new plan to remove them hasn’t even begun yet, more than three months later.

The former Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, who was responsible for overseeing the British portion of the evacuation, made the same claims that the Biden administration tried to use in the aftermath. He told reporters that the sudden takeover of the country by the Taliban had been, “unexpected around the world.” Of course, we know that’s not true. Our own military had been warning Joe Biden for months that both the government and the military would fall in short order, but the President chose not to listen.

That brings us to the question of how much responsibility the Brits bear for all of those helpers being left behind. In the end, our allies weren’t really consulted about the details of the withdrawal. That was a decision that Joe Biden essentially made on his own and everyone else was simply forced to react to it. Further, our allies were almost certainly taking their intelligence data from the United States. With Biden assuring everyone that the government would hold up for at least six months, that the embassy in Kabul would remain open and the military would hold the Taliban back, the UK likely took him at his word. Then, when everything went to hell in a handbasket in a matter of days, the British simply didn’t have the resources to locate and evacuate more than 5,000 people per day in such a short period of time.

There have been investigations into this debacle ongoing since then, but not much has come to light that would change my initial assessment of the situation. The responsibility for the botched withdrawal and all of the people who are either dead or still stranded in Afghanistan rests squarely on Joe Biden’s shoulders. And he should apologize to our British allies for the mess that was left behind since they are still struggling to clean it up.

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