Afghans left behind by UK to be murdered by the Taliban, whistleblower claims

7 December 2021, 16:15 | Updated: 8 December 2021, 07:30

By Patrick Grafton-Green

A whistleblower claims the UK Foreign Office failed tens of thousands of Afghans after the Taliban swept to power, with just 5% who applied for help fleeing the country under one scheme receiving help.

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Some left behind have been murdered since the collapse of Kabul, Raphael Marshall said.

In evidence published by the Foreign Affairs Select Committee on Tuesday, he also told how at one point he was the only person monitoring an inbox where pleas for help were directed.

READ MORE: 'Some people won't get back' Defence Secretary chokes up over Afghanistan

Another allegation made by Mr Marshall, that Boris Johnson intervened to order the rescue of animals, was dismissed by the PM this afternoon as "complete nonsense".

It is alleged that Mr Johnson issued an instruction to save animals from the Nowzad shelter during the mass evacuation effort in August - potentially putting British troops' lives at risk and preventing people from fleeing Kabul.

Former Royal Marine Paul "Pen" Farthing, who ran the shelter, had launched a high-profile campaign to get his staff and animals out.

READ MORE: Prince William tells Afghan refugees 'you couldn't be more welcome' to UK

A whistleblower claims the UK Foreign Office failed tens of thousands of Afghans and left them to the mercy of the Taliban
A whistleblower claims the UK Foreign Office failed tens of thousands of Afghans and left them to the mercy of the Taliban. Picture: Alamy

Speaking to MPs on the Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday afternoon, Nigel Casey, the Prime Minister's Special Representative for Afghanistan, said: "There was no prioritisation of animals over people, the animals were flown out on a charter flight chartered by the Now Zad organisation.

"That flight left after we had concluded evacuating people and at that stage at the airport it was only UK military who were left, and they were able to provide a certain amount of assistance to make sure that charter flight got out.

"And then they left themselves."

The whistleblower also alleged then foreign secretary Dominic Raab "did not fully understand the situation" in Afghanistan.

The Government's public statements over hopes the Taliban had changed did not tally with the information he was receiving, Mr Marshall said.

A government spokesperson insisted "staff worked tirelessly to evacuate more than 15,000 people".

The written evidence of Mr Marshall, who worked for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) during the evacuation effort, was published by the committee on Tuesday.

Its chairman, Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat, said the "failures betrayed our friends and allies and squandered decades of British and Nato effort".

He added it painted the evacuation as "one of lack of interest, and bureaucracy over humanity".

Mr Marshall worked in the Afghan Special Cases team, which handled the cases of Afghans who were at risk because of their links with the UK, but who did not work directly for the UK Government.

He estimated that "between 75,000 and 150,000 people (including dependants) applied for evacuation" to the team under the leave outside the rules (LOTR) category.

And he estimated that "fewer than 5% of these people have received any assistance" and states that "it is clear that some of those left behind have since been murdered by the Taliban".

He said no member of the team working on these cases had "studied Afghanistan, worked on Afghanistan previously, or had a detailed knowledge of Afghanistan".

And that junior officials were "scared by being asked to make hundreds of life and death decisions about which they knew nothing".

Emails were opened but not actioned, and Mr Marshall felt "the purpose of this system was to allow the Prime Minister and the then Foreign Secretary to inform MPs that there were no unread emails".

He said: "These emails were desperate and urgent. I was struck by many titles including phrases such as 'please save my children'."

He added: "The contrast between Her Majesty's Government's statements about a changed Taliban and the large number of highly credible allegations of very grave human rights abuses HMG has received by email is striking."

FCDO officials and the ambassador to Afghanistan, Sir Laurie Bristow, are due to give evidence to the committee on Tuesday.

Mr Tugendhat said: "These failures betrayed our friends and allies and squandered decades of British and Nato effort. The evidence we've heard alleges dysfunction within the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and substantial failings throughout the Afghanistan evacuation effort.

"The evacuation has been described as a success by some, but these allegations point to a very different story - one of lack of interest, and bureaucracy over humanity. It proved to be a true test of the leadership and effectiveness of the Foreign Office, with the lives of many of our friends and allies in the balance.

"This evidence raises serious questions about the leadership of the Foreign Office."

A government spokesperson added: "UK government staff worked tirelessly to evacuate more than 15,000 people from Afghanistan within a fortnight.

"This was the biggest mission of its kind in generations and the second-largest evacuation carried out by any country. We are still working to help others leave.

"More than 1,000 FCDO staff worked to help British nationals and eligible Afghans leave during Op Pitting. The scale of the evacuation and the challenging circumstances meant decisions on prioritisation had to be made quickly to ensure we could help as many people as possible.

"Regrettably we were not able to evacuate all those we wanted to, but our commitment to them is enduring, and since the end of the operation we have helped more than 3,000 individuals leave Afghanistan."