The UK’s evacuation from Afghanistan has been branded a “humiliation” by a senior Tory MP and ex-soldier, who told Sky News there were a “litany of concerns” in the government’s handling of it that need to be addressed.
Tobias Ellwood, who chairs the Defence Select Committee, said the Foreign Office no longer had the capability to deal with challenges like the ones faced over the last two weeks.
Speaking hours before the last UK military plane arrived at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, Mr Ellwood said: “There’s been a litany of concerns that absolutely need to be addressed and errors that have been made as well.
“We need to recognise that this is a wake-up call, that the world is getting more dangerous, not less.”
While the UK’s 20-year military presence in Afghanistan officially ended on Saturday, there were some troops on board the plane that landed at Brize Norton on Sunday night.
Mr Ellwood said that British soldiers had “performed valiantly” over the last two decades, “but were let down by their political masters”.
“As soon as we’ve departed, there have been terrorist attacks,” he said. “And there will be further terrorist attacks because we’ve departed.”
Thursday’s suicide bombing at Kabul airport killed 13 US service members and scores of Afghans. The US has launched retaliatory strikes against ISIS-K targets – including a vehicle said to be carrying explosives on Sunday.
Mr Ellwood continued: “After 20 years, we are now out, and we have very little to show for it.
“We lacked the strategy, the statecraft, the patience to see it through. This manner of our departure is a humiliation.”
Tom Tugendhat, another Conservative former soldier, who chairs the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, has already indicated his intention to hold an inquiry.
He tweeted last week: “How [the Foreign Office] handled this crisis will be the subject of a coming [Foreign Affairs Committee] inquiry. The evidence is already coming in.”
Mr Ellwood spoke as Labour wrote to Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, raising concerns about allegations that thousands of emails relating to Afghan refugees went unopened by officials dealing with the operation.
Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy said her office was tracking cases relating to 5,000 people including “British nationals, high profile public figures, people with serious disabilities and children separated from their families”.
The government previously estimated up to 1,100 Afghans eligible to come to the UK were likely to be left behind.
“It just beggars belief that ministers have presided over such utter chaos when they had eighteen months to plan, with appalling consequences for many, many people who helped us over two decades,” Ms Nandy told Sky News.
The Foreign Office has not directly denied that the emails were not opened, but said other phone lines and inboxes were used to process applications.
A spokesperson said “we deployed a 24/7 cross-Whitehall team based in our crisis hub to triage incoming emails and calls from British Nationals, ARAP applicants, and other vulnerable Afghans”.
The accusations come after Mr Raab was criticised for remaining abroad on holiday as Kabul fell to the Taliban earlier this month.
Government officials have stressed they will now be ramping up efforts to help people trapped in Afghanistan escape to third countries.
Former senior army commander General Sir Richard Barrons said the UK now needed to start speaking to the Taliban and other countries in the region to get people out.
“We have broken faith with them if we now don’t move – as the prime minister said – heaven and earth to get them out,” Sir Richard told Sky News.
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“We have made a commitment, and we now need, in discussion with the Taliban and Pakistan and other neighbours, to get them out.”
Boris Johnson has said that any recognition of the Taliban in Afghanistan will only come if the new regime guarantees safe passage for all those wanting to leave.
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