'Dereliction of Duty': Boris Johnson Under Fire Over Being on Holiday Hours Before Fall of Kabul
06:19 GMT 17.08.2021 (Updated: 06:38 GMT 17.08.2021)
On Monday, it emerged that both Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab were on holiday at the same time just a few hours before the Taliban captured the Afghan capital Kabul.
Former senior UK military and security figures have hit out at Prime Minister Boris Johnson's and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab's departure for a holiday on Saturday, despite public warnings the Taliban* might enter Kabul within hours.
It emerged on 16 August that both men were away Saturday as Taliban militants were rapidly advancing on the Afghan capital, suggesting "the scale at which Johnson and Raab were caught off-guard", according to The Mirror.
Major General Charlie Herbert, who is known for undertaking three tours of duty in Afghanistan between 2007 and 2018 underscored that "it is almost impossible to believe that the prime minister departed on holiday on Saturday; he should hang his head in shame".
Herbert described Johnson's departure as "dereliction of duty on an extraordinary scale". He also accused the PM of "overseeing one of the greatest military humiliations in the recent history of this country".
© AFP 2021 / SHARRON FLOYDA handout picture taken and released by the British Ministry of Defence (MOD) on August 16, 2021 shows British Embassy staff and British nationals evacuated from Afghanistan disembarking from an RAF Voyager aircraft after landing at RAF Brize Norton airfield, southern England, as part of the British Army's Operation PITTING
A handout picture taken and released by the British Ministry of Defence (MOD) on August 16, 2021 shows British Embassy staff and British nationals evacuated from Afghanistan disembarking from an RAF Voyager aircraft after landing at RAF Brize Norton airfield, southern England, as part of the British Army's Operation PITTING
"Three weeks ago General Lord Dannatt and 44 other senior retired military officers wrote openly to the government to express their grave concern about the handling of the interpreter issue and urged the government to accelerate the relocations [of Afghan interpreters to the UK]. That they [government ministers] failed to heed the warning is symptomatic of the disastrous complacency that has led to this national humiliation. The interpreters will die as a result of their apathy", the general said.
Peter Ricketts, a former chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), told The Guardian that Johnson's departure on holiday was "one more piece of evidence that Whitehall as a whole failed to anticipate either the scale or the speed of the collapse of the Afghan regime and the implications for British interests".
He was echoed by Alan West, a former first sea lord and chief of the naval staff, who said he would be "extremely surprised and indeed appalled if the JIC and assessments staffs were not predicting a very rapid collapse of the Afghan regime in the face of Taliban pressure by Saturday".
"In view of that I find the prime minister's decision to go on holiday surprising. I also find the foreign secretary's absence baffling. Holidays are important but not crucial. World events have a remarkable habit of happening in August and the government needs to be capable of responding quickly", West underscored.
Former UK Defence Secretary George Robertson, for his part, said it is "stunning" that Raab "would stay on holiday as our mission in Afghanistan disintegrated". According to Robertson, who is also an ex-NATO secretary general, "the horrors unfolding with every minute demand focused attention from the top".
© AFP 2021 / LEADING HAND BEN SHREADA handout picture taken and released by the British Ministry of Defence (MOD) on August 15, 2021 shows members of the British Army, from 16 Air Assault Brigade, as they disembark from an RAF Voyager aircraft after landing in Kabul, Afghanistan, to assist in evacuating British nationals and entitled persons as part of Operation PITTING
A handout picture taken and released by the British Ministry of Defence (MOD) on August 15, 2021 shows members of the British Army, from 16 Air Assault Brigade, as they disembark from an RAF Voyager aircraft after landing in Kabul, Afghanistan, to assist in evacuating British nationals and entitled persons as part of Operation PITTING
"The fact that the foreign secretary is missing in action shows graphically the lack of purpose in our government's attitude to what we set out to do twenty years ago. As secretary general of NATO on 9/11 and the person who announced the invoking of Article 5, the self-defence clause in the North Atlantic Treaty, I am sickened by the prospect of the twentieth anniversary being marked by the Taliban back in control of Afghanistan", the ex-NATO chief stressed.
Also lambasting Raab was Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy who argued that "for the foreign secretary to go AWOL during an international crisis of this magnitude is nothing short of shameful".
A UK government spokesman said on 16 August that "the prime minister has returned to Downing Street today" and that "he has been monitoring the situation in Afghanistan throughout".
As for Raab, when asked whether he should have returned from his holiday sooner to grapple with the situation, the foreign secretary said: "As we've just described, everyone was caught by surprise by the pace and the scale of the Taliban takeover". He added that he has been "directly in touch with my team, directing them, which has paid the dividends".
On Sunday, the Taliban wrapped up their takeover of Afghanistan by entering the capital Kabul. President Ashraf Ghani left the country to prevent what he described as bloodshed that he said would occur if the militants had to fight for the city.
By Sunday, just dozens of British officials and diplomats remained in Afghanistan, down from around 500 earlier last week, with Ambassador Laurie Bristow expected to leave in the next few days.
Also last week, the UK sent 600 troops to help British nationals and local translators leave Kabul amid the deterioration in the security situation in Afghanistan. Adding to the chaos are scores of ordinary Afghans rushing to the Kabul Airport to flee the country by any means.
*The Taliban is a terrorist group banned in Russia and a spate of other countries