Image source, Reuters
Image caption, UK forces helping a child during the evacuation of the airport in Afghanistan’s capital Kabul
The UK’s withdrawal from Afghanistan was “a dark chapter” for the UK, senior Conservative Tobias Ellwood has said.
The Defence Committee, led by Mr Ellwood, is urging the government to hold an “honest” inquiry into the UK’s departure from Afghanistan, which led to the return of the Taliban to power.
The MPs’ report warns the country is again becoming a haven for terrorists.
They also say thousands of people eligible for evacuation to the UK are still living at risk in Afghanistan.
Responding to the report, the government said it worked “tirelessly to safely evacuate as many people out of Afghanistan as possible”.
The Ministry of Defence spokesperson added: “We owe a debt of gratitude to Afghan citizens who worked for, or with, the UK armed forces in Afghanistan and to date we have relocated over 12,100 individuals under the scheme.”
The department estimates there are around 300 eligible Afghans plus their families whom it is still trying to locate to bring back to the UK.
It added it would respond fully to the MPs’ report in due course.
In 2001, following the 9/11 attacks, US-led troops – including British forces – invaded Afghanistan and ousted the Taliban government.
Twenty years later, America and its allies pulled out of the country leading to the sudden collapse of the Western-backed Afghan government and the resurgence of the Taliban.
Britain’s 20-year military presence in Afghanistan cost nearly £30bn and the lives of 457 British military personnel.
Mr Ellwood, chair of the House of Commons Defence Committee, describes the UK’s withdrawal from Afghanistan in the summer of 2021 as “a dark chapter in UK military history” – not just for the troops who served there, but also for those Afghans who helped them.
His committee’s 30-page report argues the speed at which the Afghan government fell was “a greater surprise to the military establishment than it might have been”.
The report calls for an “open, honest and detailed review” of the decisions made by the UK during its time in Afghanistan.
While the MPs praise the evacuation effort in 2021 – which saw 15,000 people bought to the UK – they also say the plans should have been better prepared.
They argue a lack of effective co-operation has led to “real and painful human consequences for those who reasonably expected to be evacuated but were not”.
Several thousand Afghans eligible for relocation are still stranded and should be flown back to the UK for their own safety, the MPs say.
Mr Ellwood welcomed funding for veterans and praised British troops who served in Afghanistan. “The bravery of those on the ground was never in doubt,” he said.