MPs to probe FCDO's handling of Afghan crisis after sensitive documents found at Kabul embassy

Defence secretary Ben Wallace says failure to destroy details of local contacts was “clearly not good enough”
Kabul airport, which is being used to evacuate British citizens and vulnerable Afghans, where a bombing attack took place yesterday. Photo: Saifurahman Safi/Xinhua/Alamy Live News

A group of MPs has launched an inquiry into the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office’s handling of the Afghanistan crisis, following the revelation that documents identifying Afghans who had helped the British government were left where they could be found by the Taliban.

Tom Tugenhadt, who chairs the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, shared the news that evidence is “already coming in” for the inquiry alongside a news story revealing that documents with contact details of Afghans working for them were left scattered in an embassy compound in Kabul that had been seized by the militant organisation.

The papers – which identified seven Afghans and also included CVs of people applying for jobs – were found by The Times after being left behind in the embassy’s haste to evacuate on 15 August.

The documents included the name and address of a senior member of the British embassy staff in Kabul, along with those of other staff members, and the CVs and addresses of applicants for jobs as interpreters.

Phone calls to numbers on the documents revealed that some of the people – who could be at serious risk of reprisal by the Taliban were they to be identified – were still stranded in Afghanistan, the newspaper reported.

Details of the embassy staff were passed to the Foreign Office, who coordinated their evacuation. However, the whereabouts of at least two applicants for interpreting jobs identified in the documents are still unknown, according to The Times.

The newspaper agreed not to publish details of its findings until it had given the FCDO time to locate the missing staff. 

A source in the department told the paper: “We are grateful to The Times for sharing the information retrieved with us and working with us to enable us to get these three families to safety.”

The revelation comes amid intense criticism of the UK’s handling of the crisis and its failure to evacuate some Afghans who had helped the UK government over the last two decades.

Calls have come for the resignation of foreign secretary Dominic Raab, after he remained on holiday as Kabul fell and failed to make a call to his then-counterpart in Afghanistan to discuss the evacuation of interpreters.

Raab has since said that “with the benefit of hindsight", he would have returned from his Crete holiday sooner, but added that "we were all surprised by the scale and the pace of the collapse of the situation in Kabul".

The Foreign Affairs Committee is planning to question Raab on 1 September on the UK's evacuation efforts.

Announcing the session yesterday, Tugenhadt said: “How will we deal with the Taliban? How will Afghanistan shape our regional strategy? How will the government hold the Taliban to account for reverses in human rights? These questions, and so many others, will be put to the foreign secretary next week.”

Defence secretary Ben Wallace said the prime minister “will be asking some questions” about how the documents were left at the embassy, and that the incident will be investigated.

“We’ll find out and get to the bottom of it. The evidence looks pretty clear. Clearly it’s not good enough, simple as that… I think we need to understand, quite rightly, how that happened,” he told Sky News.

An FCDO spokesperson said: “During the drawdown of our embassy every effort was made to destroy sensitive material.”

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