People being evacuated Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan
In its response, the Foreign Office acknowledged the "many shortcomings" of the UK's 'Special Cases' evacuation scheme (Picture: Alamy).
Afghanistan

Government 'not listening' after response to Afghanistan withdrawal report

People being evacuated Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan
In its response, the Foreign Office acknowledged the "many shortcomings" of the UK's 'Special Cases' evacuation scheme (Picture: Alamy).

The Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) has accepted there are lessons to be learnt from the UK's withdrawal from Afghanistan, despite one MP accusing the Foreign Office of "not listening".

Responding to a damning report from the Foreign Affairs Committee earlier this year the FCDO has said it is determined to raise standards in preparation for future crises.

In the report, titled 'Missing in action: UK leadership and the withdrawal from Afghanistan', the committee condemned "evasive, and often deliberately misleading" answers from the Foreign Office, as well as criticising the UK's 'Special Cases' evacuation scheme.

It also stated the committee had "lost confidence" in Dominic Raab, Foreign Secretary at the time, and said he "should consider his position".

In response, the FCDO said "at no stage have ministers or officials sought to mislead the committee deliberately" and offered "sincere apologies" for "inadvertently providing misleading evidence".

The Foreign Office also acknowledged the "many shortcomings" of the evacuation scheme – with personnel from all three services deployed to Kabul in August 2021 to help evacuate British nationals and entitled personnel from Kabul under Operation Pitting.

Watch: Committee report calls out systemic failures in lead-up to Afghanistan evacuation.

MP Chris Bryant, a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said the "chaotic" handling of the withdrawal undermined "the public's trust in the Government's ability to execute foreign policy – or to give an honest account to Parliament".

"Our report called on the political and diplomatic leadership of the Foreign Office to make a fresh start and re-commit to transparency and positive engagement with Parliament after this experience," he said.

"Judging by the continuing evasions in this response, they are not listening.

"So far we have had few signs that the Foreign Secretary and the Foreign Office are able to learn valuable lessons from this experience."

He concluded: "If this continues, we risk another catastrophe further undermining our standing on the world stage."

Watch: Former Afghanistan interpreter granted UK leave after a year in hiding.

Tom Tugendhat, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said the UK's failure to "manage the consequences" of the withdrawal "leaves a black mark on Britain's record".

"This is a tragedy, first and foremost, for the Afghan people, who are now suffering through a humanitarian crisis and the return of a brutal and oppressive regime," he said.

He added that it was clear the leadership of the Foreign Office fell "desperately short before, during and after the UK's withdrawal from Afghanistan". 

He said the UK's allies in the country were left with "false hope of rescue" while junior Foreign Office staff members "were forced to make life and death decisions without proper support".

"They should never have been put in this position," he added.

"This disaster has exposed serious failings in the department and I hope that this response signals the start of a sincere attempt to remedy these failures."