The UK’s handling of the military withdrawal from Afghanistan and the evacuation from Kabul will be scrutinised as part of a broader inquiry announced today by the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee.
The inquiry will not only probe for mis-steps by the Foreign Office, but also try to understand how the Taliban’s dramatic return to power may have reshuffled the geo-political deck.
Announcing the scope of the inquiry on Sept. 3, committee chairman Tom Tugendhat said that “big questions” remained over recent events and the handling of the crisis, and that lessons needed to be learned.
“The fall of Kabul is a catastrophe for the Afghan people and for the reputation of those nations that were committed to its success,” he said in a statement.
“Our hasty withdrawal leaves a country in an acute humanitarian and human rights crisis.”
“The Afghan people, who we worked alongside for many years, have been left at the mercy of the Taliban, a vicious fundamentalist group.”
In a taster-session of what the inquiry might hold, earlier this week the committee pressed Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab over this own personal handling of the crisis, and of the British government’s response.
“While I thank the Foreign Secretary for appearing in front of the committee at late notice, big questions remain, and this inquiry hopes to provide some much-needed clarity,” said Tugendhat. “Lessons need to be learned and the decisions the UK makes in the coming months will be crucial.”
Raab is currently in Pakistan, as part of a hastily-arranged tour aimed at gluing together a shared regional approach to the Taliban.
Speaking in Islamabad, Raab re-iterated his previous insistence that no-one had anticipated the speed that the Afghanistan government and forces would collapse.
“The takeover I think it’s fair to say was faster than anyone anticipated, not just the United Kingdom or Nato allies, but I was talking with our friends here.
“And I suspect the Taliban and ordinary Afghans were taken by surprise.
“I think there was a common widespread surprise at the speed with which the consolidation of power happened.”
The committee said its inquiry will examine “the implications of the Taliban gaining power, including for UK security, and the human rights and humanitarian crises in Afghanistan.”
It will also try to understand the strategic implications for UK foreign policy, including for the relationship with the United States, and the government’s Indo-Pacific tilt.
The inquiry will investigate how the roles that Russia and China will play in the region with the return of the Taliban.
The committee did not provide a date for the inquiry but said that the submission of written evidence is open until October.