British embassy workers 'left behind details of Afghan staff for Taliban to find'

27 August 2021, 08:39 | Updated: 27 August 2021, 08:42

Details were found at the British embassy in Kabul.
Details were found at the British embassy in Kabul. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Paperwork with details of Afghan staff was left behind by British embassy workers in Kabul for the Taliban to find, it has emerged.

Documents with contact information for multiple people, as well as CVs of locals applying for jobs, were discovered scattered on the ground in the embassy compound as the militant group took control of the capital.

The paperwork identifying seven Afghans was identified by reporters as the Taliban patrolled the building, according to The Times.

The newspaper called the numbers listed and found some of the staff members had already been evacuated to the UK, but that other staff had been left behind.

Read more: UK enters final hours of Afghanistan evacuation

Among those were three Afghan staff and eight family members, including five children, who were caught in crowds at Kabul airport. They were, however, eventually found and rescued.

The Foreign Office had lost the three members of staff and were only able to evacuate them once the paper passed on details they found.

The blunder appeared to ignore evacuation protocols of shredding and destroying all data that could compromise local workers.

Read more: ISIS claim responsibility for Kabul attacks and identify one of the suicide bombers

Read more: Afghanistan: 13 US troops and scores of Afghan people die in Kabul airport suicide attack

Speaking to LBC on Friday, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said "it's not good enough" that the documents were not disposed of.

When asked how it could have happened, Mr Wallace said: "Well, I think we need to get to the bottom of that. The Prime Minister will be asking some questions.

"We need to understand how that happened. How quickly did people leave? Was there a rush to the extent that these things were left?

"What I don't know is the scale of what was actually destroyed and how much these were a tiny, tiny percentage but, nevertheless, it's not good enough."

Read more: Afghanistan: British evacuation will continue despite 'barbaric' Kabul airport attack

The Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) acknowledged the apparent error, but said staff had tried to destroy sensitive material before leaving the embassy.

"We have worked tirelessly to secure the safety of those who worked for us in Afghanistan and continue to do so," a spokesperson said.

"Crucially we have now been able to get these three families to safety.

"The drawdown of our embassy was done at pace as the situation in Kabul deteriorated. Every effort was made to destroy sensitive material."

An FCDO source added the Foreign Office was grateful to The Times for "sharing the information retrieved with us and working with us to enable us to get these three families to safety".