Foreign secretary Dominic Raab holidayed as the Taliban advanced on Kabul (Pictures: AFP/EPA/Getty)
The then-foreign secretary tried to shift the blame and his top civil servant should resign for trying to cover up the chaos, the foreign affairs committee concluded.
In a damning report, the MPs said lives were put in jeopardy by a ‘fundamental lack of planning, grip or leadership at a time of national emergency’.
Evacuation plans ‘failed to deliver the bare minimum’, with Foreign Office staff relying on Google to decide who to save.
Boris Johnson has denied intervening to prioritise the evacuation of Pen Farthing and animals from his Nowzad sanctuary, calling the claims ‘total rhubarb’. But the MPs found there was no other plausible explanation as to how the 230-seater private aircraft left Kabul with just Mr Farthing and his animals on board.
‘The government was never going to be able to evacuate all, or even many, of these people,’ they wrote of vulnerable Afghans – some of whom had risked their lives as interpreters for British forces – but it ‘failed to deliver the bare minimum that we owed them’.
The prime minister told MPs there was ‘no military path to victory for the Taliban’ in July last year, six weeks before the Islamists seized the country. It was August 6 before the government suggested that British nationals leave Afghanistan, while the PM, Mr Raab and Foreign Office permanent secretary Sir Philip Barton were all on their holidays as the Taliban entered Kabul on August 15.
A Ministry of Defence evacuation flight out of Kabul airport in August 2021 (Picture: PA)
Mr Raab spoke to the ambassador in Kabul just twice in August, and had spoken to the country’s neighbours once in the previous eight months.
It was only after the capital fell that he committed to evacuating particularly vulnerable opponents of the new regime, alongside staff who had worked for the UK.
‘He sought to distance himself from the problem, blaming “military intelligence”, and stating that this was “not the Foreign Office’s lead responsibility”,’ the MPs wrote. ‘The Foreign Office had many warnings of the deteriorating situation.’
The MPs found ‘chaos’ reigned in the department, with thousands of applications sent to ‘at least six crisis email inboxes’, some of which were ‘forgotten about entirely between shifts’.
Cases were being randomly given priority and staff were using ‘largely meaningless’ criteria to decide which applicants were most deserving.
The only official precedence was given to cases raised by MPs in what the committee described as ‘little more than a public relations exercise’.
‘The political leadership on offer vacillated so much that no clear priorities were set for who should be evacuated and in what order, giving many thousands of vulnerable people, to whom we owed a debt, a hope that could never be met,’ the MPs wrote.
Sir Philip and his Afghan chief Nigel Casey refused on six occasions to tell the committee whether the PM intervened before the animals were evacuated on August 28.
And the MPs condemned Sir Philip’s decision not to return from his holiday until 11 days after the Taliban takeover.
Boris Johnson ‘to use most senior civil servant as scapegoat’ over Partygate
‘Without the intervention of whistleblowers, we would not be aware that this intervention had taken place at all,’ they wrote.
A Foreign Office spokeswoman said the government would ‘closely review the findings and respond in due course’.
She said: ‘Our staff worked tirelessly to evacuate over 15,000 people from Afghanistan within a fortnight.
‘This was the biggest UK mission of its kind in generations and followed months of intensive planning and collaboration between UK government departments.’
Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at [email protected].
For more stories like this, check our news page.