Raab confirms Afghan British Embassy guards left behind in Kabul

Failure to evacuate guards was "reflection of the conditions on the ground", foreign secretary tells MPs
Dominic Raab answered the foreign affairs committee's questions on the UK;'s withdrawal from Afghanistan yesterday. Screenshot: Parliament TV

By Noa Hoffman

02 Sep 2021

The foreign secretary has confirmed that Afghan guards who worked at the British embassy in Kabul were unable to evacuate to the UK because buses transporting them to the airport were prevented from entering the compound.

During yesterday's Foreign Affairs Select Committee emergency hearing, Raab reiterated that the number of British nationals and individuals eligible to seek refuge in the UK is unclear but is believed to be in the “low hundreds”.

Asked specifically if this included embassy guards, he confirmed that numerous security workers employed by the UK through contractors remain stuck in Afghanistan.

“We wanted to get some of those embassy guards through, but the buses arranged to get them and take them to airport weren’t given permission to enter," Raab told the committee.

“That is, I’m afraid, a reflection of the conditions on the ground.”

The UK contracted around 200 Afghan staff from the international security firm GardaWorld to work at its Kabul embassy.

According to the Guardian, an evacuation operation was planned for the guards, whereby 10 buses would transport them the airport, with a passage for entry having been pre-negotiated with the Taliban.

But upon arrival at the airport, the convoy was denied access and after an 11-hour wait the escape operation was abandoned.

One of the guards who remains trapped in Afghanistan told the Guardian: “At the last moment, the UK government and GardaWorld really wanted to be heroes of this tragedy but unfortunately didn’t happen.

“But they could have done it better with better management, days earlier, when there was no rush. Our life is full of tragedy now, we live in fear.”

Discussing the matter during today’s committee hearing, Labour MP Neil Coyle accused the operation of failing “due to paperwork”.

In response to the assertion, Raab said: "that's not true”. 

Noa Hoffman is a reporter at CSW's sister title PoliticsHome, where this story first appeared.

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