Whistleblower: As Afghanistan Fell, U.K. Abandoned Supporters

LONDON (AP) -
Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab, the former Foreign Secretary, arrives ahead of the government’s weekly Cabinet meeting in Downing Street, in London, Tuesday. (Aaron Chown/PA via AP)

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. 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. “These emails were desperate and urgent. I was struck by many titles including phrases such as ‘please save my children’.”

Former Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who was moved from the Foreign Office to become Justice Secretary after his handling of the crisis, defended his actions.

“Some of the criticism seems rather dislocated from the facts on the ground, the operational pressures that with the takeover of the Taliban, unexpected around the world…” he told the BBC. “I do think that not enough recognition has been given to quite how difficult it was.”

The Taliban stormed across Afghanistan in late summer, capturing all major cities in a matter of days, as Afghan security forces trained and equipped by the U.S. and its allies melted away. The Taliban took over Kabul on Aug. 15.

Many who had worked for Western powers or the government worried that the country could descend into chaos or the Taliban could carry out revenge attacks against them.

Many also feared the Taliban would reimpose the harsh interpretation of Islamic law that they relied on when they ran Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. At the time, women had to wear the all-encompassing burqa and be accompanied by a male relative whenever they went outside.