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BORIS JOHNSON has backed the Foreign Office’s top civil servant after MPs demanded his resignation over “deep failures” during last year’s “disastrous” Kabul airlift.
The foreign affairs committee published a damning report today, identifying “systemic failures” of planning, intelligence and diplomacy as the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan.
The report was particularly scathing about Sir Philip Barton, who is accused of displaying a “determination to avoid earthing the facts” during its inquiry into the British withdrawal from the country.
The MPs also described the failure of Sir Philip and then foreign secretary Dominic Raab to return from holiday as the Afghan capital fell last August as marking a “fundamental lack of seriousness, grip or leadership.”
But Downing Street has said that the Prime Minister had full confidence in the beleaguered Foreign Office head and praised staff efforts during the evacuation.
Mr Johnson’s official spokesperson said: “We don’t agree with all of the conclusions that the committee has drawn on this,” adding that there had been “significant preplanning” before the evacuations.
Mr Raab also defended his position, telling the Commons in response to a question on the matter that he would not step down.
The cross-party panel of MPs that carried out the inquiry said that “mismanagement” of the evacuation as the Taliban quickly overran the country “likely cost lives.”
Afghan partners, civil servants and soldiers, “working hard on the evacuation, were utterly let down by deep failures of leadership in government,” the committee said.
The report prompted a fresh wave of criticism of how the government handled the withdrawal.
Shadow justice secretary David Lammy said that the individuals responsible “for this calamity should be held accountable.”
But campaigners suggested that the report did not go far enough, with human rights group Global Witness saying that it failed to address the government’s “continued failure to meet our responsibilities” to the Afghan people.
Director Amy Richards said the government’s refugee schemes have “barely got off the ground,” while the criteria for entering Britain under the schemes has been tightened.
“As life gets harder for those in Afghanistan, Britain is further pulling up the drawbridge and letting down those who carried out brave acts of solidarity on our behalf over many years,” Ms Richards added. “We should be utterly ashamed by this.”
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