Horrific days in kabul

No Time to Rescue

Omar Raad Chowdhury

There have now emerged quite unbelievable inside pictures of the colossal failure of the British government in rescuing its friends, allies, and ordinary Afghans fleeing the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.

Raphael Marshall, a diplomat formerly in the service of her royal highness, has claimed the British evacuation operation, during the fall of Kabul, to be “dysfunctional and chaotic”,in his testimony to the foreign affairs select committee published on Tuesday (7 December 2021), said a BBC report of the same day.

The international web-edition of The Guardian ran the story on 7 December 2021,with the subheading “Ex-diplomat claims string of failings within department led to ‘people being left to die at the hands of the Taliban’”. For a bureaucracy claiming to be famous for its astuteness, discipline and efficiency and a role model still faithfully replicated in many of its former colonies, that is quite degrading, to say the least.

Marshall accuses the UK government of lying about its efforts of evacuation. The Guardian reports: ‘The government falsely claimed each request for evacuation was logged, when in fact thousands of emails—including many sent by MPs—went unread, Marshall said.

‘When Tom Tugendhat, the chair of the foreign affairs committee, complained to the then foreign secretary Dominic Raab’s private office that 10 cases he had raised in an email had not been read, a message was sent back to Tugendhat saying: “We were processing them.”

‘But Marshall said that was wrong: “In fact, none of these cases had so far been processed at all.” '

One would do well to remember that at the time of the Kabul evacuation operation, the US and UK officials and political leaders were assuring the world that they had been giving their fullest efforts. However, at that time, Marshall testifies, ‘At one point at the height of the crisis, he says he was the only person working on the evacuation desk, and was having to make life and death decisions on individuals to be evacuated on the basis of entirely haphazard criteria’, said The Guardian report.

Where were the 007s,one may wonder. Perhaps off to a filmy celebration of British courage and pseudo-progressiveness! Or, perhaps, following the order of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the 007s were putting their lives in the line of fire, on a noble mission to rescue animals.

‘Despite the huge numbers of people trying to escape, Marshall said Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) “received an instruction from the prime minister” to use “considerable capacity” to help animals leave Afghanistan that were in the care of Nowzad, the charity run by Paul “Pen” Farthing.

‘In his testimony, Marshall claims: “There was a direct trade-off between transporting Nowzad’s animals and evacuating British nationals and Afghan evacuees, including Afghans who had served with British soldiers.”’, said the UK daily.

However, an official statement from No. 10 Downing Street has claimed this to be “entirely untrue”, the report said.

The top British diplomat at that time, Dominic Raab, demoted since then, has been described by Marshall as to be showing “a misunderstanding of the haphazard process and desperate position at Kabul airport by delaying several emergency evacuation referrals”, said the daily.

Marshall’s testimony also pointed out that, the manner in which evacuees were selected and listed in accordance to priority, was inconsistent, and to quote the BBC, ‘arbitrary’. The staff working in the evacuation operation were so inexperienced that some of them did not even know how to refer to the Afghan people.

Technical difficulties arose too–but not as subtle as one may perceive–laptops, allotted to soldiers assisting with the evacuation process, did not work because the FCDO’s IT department had not issued the passwords to unlock them.

The horrific images of the August days in Kabul, personal accounts of evacuees and those stranded, and most importantly testimonies by the leaders and officers in charge of the evacuation operation—all indicate the authenticity of Marshall’s claims.

It yet remains a mystery as to why a number of key members of the US and UK top leadership were on vacation during such a foreign policy crisis. Has there been in play any other ploy?

Setting aside the sheer stupidity and incompetency of the UK government, one can not overlook its plain disregard for lives of its friends and allies, as evident in this testimony.

There are a couple of points to be noted from this whole story.

First of all, if the testimony is true, and there is little reason to believe otherwise, it paints the picture of an incapable leadership at the helm of a country that is a trusted ally and accomplice of US imperialism. This leadership, it should be noted, is only a product of the society, which should be all the more worrying for the empire. Detailed study of this whole situation can be extremely valuable for anti-imperialist forces. Secondly, the unsuspecting audience, still putting faith in the empire’s championing of the system it claims to be democracy, human rights, etc., should make careful note of this whole ordeal as it renders the empire’s credibility null and void.

There should be no doubt that the empire does not care about democracy, and its hullabaloo over human rights is nothing but a sham and a pretext for further imperialist intervention.

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Vol 54, No. 26, Dec 26, 2021 - Jan 1, 2022