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Whistleblower Accuses Foreign Office Of Leaving Afghans To Be "Murdered By The Taliban"

The foreign office whistleblower criticised the UK's withdrawal from Afghanistan and the lack of help for those fleeing the Taliban (Alamy)

4 min read

A foreign office whistleblower has said just 5% of Afghan nationals who asked the UK for help to flee the Taliban were assisted in leaving the country.

In evidence to Parliament published today, Raphael Marshall said he believes some of those left behind have been murdered since the western-backed government in Kabul collapsed.

He said at one point he was the only person monitoring an inbox where pleas for help were directed, and claimed no member of the team working on evacuation cases had "studied Afghanistan, worked on Afghanistan previously, or had a detailed knowledge of Afghanistan”.

Marshall, who worked for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) during the evacuation effort, told the Foreign Affairs Committee that junior officials were "scared by being asked to make hundreds of life and death decisions about which they knew nothing".

But Dominic Raab, who was the foreign secretary at the time, has said he does not recognise the account. This morning Raab told Sky News he believed it was "right" that Britain had a process in place to check for those at "genuine risk of persecution" and protect the UK from potential threats.

Raab, who is now deputy Prime Minister and justice secretary, defended himself in light of accusations that officials faced delays in processing evacuations. 

"I regularly checked that we were properly resourced," he said.

"But the challenge of course with all of these things was the verification of the facts on the ground."

Chair of the foreign affairs selection committee, Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat, said the evidence demonstrated that "failures betrayed our friends and allies and squandered decades of British and Nato effort".

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

Marshall, who worked in the Afghan Special Cases team, estimated "between 75,000 and 150,000 people (including dependants) applied for evacuation", but that "fewer than 5% of these people have received any assistance”.

He added: “It is clear that some of those left behind have since been murdered by the Taliban.”

Marshall alleged Raab "did not fully understand the situation”, claiming emails were opened but not actioned, in a system “to allow the Prime Minister and the then-foreign secretary to inform MPs that there were no unread emails".

"These emails were desperate and urgent. I was struck by many titles including phrases such as 'please save my children'," Marshall added. 

The whistleblower also claimed Boris Johnson asked for "considerable capacity" to be used to get a charity's dogs out of Afghanistan, but Raab insisted this was not the case

"That's just not accurate. We did not put the welfare of animals above individuals,” he told Sky News.

In a recent cabinet reshuffle, Raab was moved to the position of justice secretary, which some have read as a demotion over his handling of the situation in Afghanistan. But Raab said he did not recognise that characterisation of events. 

"Those are decisions for the Prime Minister, but I am pretty confident from what he said to me that it wasn't in relation to Afghanistan," he said.

A foreign office spokesperson has also defended the government's evacuation effort. 

"UK government staff worked tirelessly to evacuate more than 15,000 people from Afghanistan within a fortnight," the said in a statement responsing to revelations by Marshall. 

"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."

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