Crowd on Op Pitting military aid the evacuation of former British staff eligible for relocation under the Afghan Relocation Assistance Policy 20210822 CREDIT MOD
British military personnel check papers during Op Pitting evacuation following the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban (Picture: MOD).
Afghanistan

Fall of Afghanistan to Taliban down to 'failure of political will', ex-military chief says

Gen Sir Nick Carter said expectations raised through the presence of coalition forces in Afghanistan have been "horribly shattered".

Crowd on Op Pitting military aid the evacuation of former British staff eligible for relocation under the Afghan Relocation Assistance Policy 20210822 CREDIT MOD
British military personnel check papers during Op Pitting evacuation following the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban (Picture: MOD).

One year on since the Taliban retook control of Afghanistan, the head of the British military at the time says the fall of the country was down to a "failure of political will" as part of a "wider malaise".

General (retired) Sir Nick Carter served as Chief of the Defence Staff from 2018 until November 2021 and told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme "there was too much assumption that the best case would happen rather than the worst case".

"Not a week goes by when I don't think about what has happened," he said during the interview.

The Taliban rapidly reclaimed power in Afghanistan after US president Joe Biden announced the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks would mark the exit of American and, subsequently, allied troops from the country.

"What has materialised in Afghanistan was not the outcome that we spent 20 years fighting for," Gen Sir Nick told the Today programme.

When asked about Afghan contractors saying they wished they had never worked for the UK Government because of the dangers they face in Afghanistan, he said: "You can't blame them for that.

"These are people who trusted us, they wanted to work with us to help rebuild their country and it appears we've let them down.

"And that is a really, really bad place to be.

"We raised a lot of expectations through our presence in Afghanistan and many of those expectations have been horribly shattered by what has now happened," he added.

Gen Sir Nick, who served as head of the British Army between 2014 and 2018, described a "series of failures".

General Sir Nick Carter served as UK Armed Forces chief between 2018 and 2021.
General Sir Nick Carter said what happened in Afghanistan a year ago was

He pointed out failures to understand the Afghan government and Afghan Security Forces, which British troops helped train, were not "sustainable".

The retired general also told BBC Radio 4 that Afghans are "always" getting in touch with him, telling him how "ghastly" it is and asking for help.

More than 21,000 people have been brought to safety to the UK from Afghanistan so far, according to Government figures.

That includes British nationals and their families, Afghans who worked for the UK, and people identified as high risk, such as women’s rights campaigners, journalists and members of the LGBT+ community.

Of that 21,000 total, 15,000 were evacuated in just over two weeks during Operation Pitting – the British military's initial evacuation mission.

Gen Sir Nick Carter described the UK's evacuation efforts as "truly remarkable".