‘Reckoning’ over UK Foreign Office’s handling of Afghanistan

‘Reckoning’ over UK Foreign Office’s handling of Afghanistan: UK Defence Secretary 
2 min read
17 August, 2021
UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace reportedly said that 'a reckoning' will take place over UK Foreign Office management of chaotic attempts to evacuate British nationals from Afghanistan.
UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said '18-year-old squaddies' were being left to deal with visa applications [Getty]

UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has scorned the Foreign Office for its handling of the crisis in Afghanistan, following the Taliban's takeover and subsequent exodus from Kabul airport, according to reports.

Wallace accused the Foreign Office of evacuating diplomats in Afghanistan "on the first plane out", leaving ministry of defence staff, soldiers, and civil servants left to deal with the surge of visa applications coming from British and Afghan nationals fleeing from insurgents

The defence secretary - a former British Army officer - reportedly said that "18-year-old squaddies" were having to deal with the flood of "applications of incredible complexity", with up to 4,000 claims for resettlement made in a single day. 

He told colleagues that there would be "a reckoning" for the UK government department, according to a Monday report in The Guardian. 

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British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab had faced huge criticism for being on holiday last week when the Taliban seized a series of provincial capitals in Afghanistan.

He said on Monday: "We are concentrated on the evacuation effort for British nationals and those Afghan nationals who have served the United Kingdom so loyalty." 

Raab claimed that 150 British nationals arrived in the UK on Monday, and a further 350 British and Afghan nationals would be flown out in the coming days.  

The foreign secretary added that the UK is using its G7 presidency to "make it very clear to the Taliban that we will hold them to account" when it comes to international security and women's rights.  This comes after Raab said the takeover was "not what the UK wanted" and he had been surprised at the "scale and pace" of the Taliban's advance.  

Wallace said on Monday that the Taliban's seizing power in Afghanistan is a "failure of the international community". 

Britain withdrew the majority of its 750 remaining troops in Afghanistan last month, as US troops and other NATO forces left the country. 

The Taliban stormed across the country capturing rural areas, key border posts, then provincial capitals as foreign military forces left and Afghan security forces fragmented.

Tens of thousands of Afghans have been displaced because of the escalating violence as people fear the Taliban will penalise those who worked with foreign allies and the US-backed government. A crackdown on freedom of expression and women’s rights is also prompting people to flee. 

The Taliban have sought in recent years to present themselves as a more moderate force and vow they won't exact revenge, but many Afghans are sceptical of those promises.