Boris Johnson Stands By Dominic Raab As Deputy PM Despite Accusation Of Incompetence Over Afghanistan
Downing Street has said it “does not agree with all the conclusions” of a damning foreign affairs select committee report highlighting the failures of the UK’s withdrawal from Afghanistan.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesperson insisted that staff at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) worked “tirelessly” to evacuate 15,000 people from the country after it fell to Taliban control in August 2021.
They also dismissed criticism of then-Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and the department’s chief Sir Philip Barton after the report accused them of “a fundamental lack of seriousness” amid the crisis.
Asked if Boris Johnson regretted appointing Raab to the role of Deputy Prime Minister shortly after the withdrawal, his spokesperson said he did not.
“We don't agree with all of the conclusions that the committee has drawn on this. Foreign office staff, and government staff more widely, worked tirelessly evacuating 15,000 People from Afghanistan in 14 days,” they said.
“It was the biggest mission of its kind. There was significant pre-planning before that, and following that recognition that there's always things that can be improved.
“There was a review to learn lessons about the withdrawal and some of that learning has been put in place on things like Ukraine.”
They went on to say that the leadership of the operation was “not the work of one individual” and insisted that “every country involved in the withdrawal could have done more on this”.
In its report, the foreign affairs committee identified a series of “systemic failures of intelligence, diplomacy, planning and preparation” in the UK’s response, which it said amounted to “a betrayal of our allies that will damage the UK’s interests for years to come”.
MPs said the government had failed to put in place a plan to evacuate Afghans who had supported UK forces, “despite knowing 18 months before the collapse of Afghanistan that an evacuation might be necessary”.
They claimed there had been “no clear line of command” during the withdrawal from Afghanistan which had led to lives being lost.
“The hasty effort to select those eligible for evacuation was poorly devised, managed, and staffed; and the department failed to perform the most basic crisis-management functions,” it continued.
The committee's chair Tom Tughendhat told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Tuesday morning that there was a “fundamental failure” of leadership in the crisis.
"It's a very clear criticism of the failure to plan, the failure to prepare, and the failure to lead at a moment of extraordinary national emergency, at a time when lives were quite literally being lost, at a time when every decision was fraught with risk, and highly contentious, and needed to be made very quickly by people who had the authority to do so,” he said.
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