Raab under fire again after sensitive papers left behind in British embassy for Taliban

·4 min read
Afghan people wanting to leave the country queue up in front of the British and Canadian embassy in Kabul on August 19, 2021 after Taliban's military takeover of Afghanistan.   / AFP / WAKIL KOHSAR
Foreign Office staff reportedly left sensitive documents with details of Afghan employees for the Taliban to find. (AFP)

Documents identifying Afghan workers have been found on the ground of the former British embassy, potentially putting them at risk of reprisals from the Taliban and sparking a backlash against the foreign office from both sides of the Commons.

The paperwork, which should have been shredded so Afghans at risk of reprisals couldn't be tracked down, was found left at the compound which was evacuated on 15 August and has now been seized by the Taliban. 

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said Prime Minister Boris Johnson "will be asking some questions" about how the papers were left unsecure, adding: "Clearly it’s not good enough."

Labour said Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has "serious questions to answer" and that the destruction of sensitive materials should have been a "top priority".

A reporter for The Times, who first reported the story, described finding papers identifying seven Afghans, as well as CVs of locals who had applied for jobs, including a 33-year-old who had applied for an interpreter's job and the embassy's 30-year-old cook and housekeeper.

Three families whose details were left behind have now been rescued and taken to safety, the Foreign Office has said.  

Watch: Documents left at British embassy in Kabul

Read more: Ex-soldier Pen Farthing ‘shot at by gunman’ during attempt to get animals out of Afghanistan

The Times said it had made phone calls to numbers on the documents, revealing that some Afghan employees and their families had been left stranded, with one man reportedly begging: "Please don’t leave us behind".

The newspaper reported that it had passed details of the missing staff to the Foreign Office, prompting the rescue of three families, but the fate of least two job people who had applied for jobs as interpreters remained unknown.

Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee shared The Times story on Twitter, writing: "How @FCDOGovUK handled this crisis will be the subject of a coming @CommonsForeign inquiry. The evidence is already coming in."

It was also suggested that information on Afghans who had helped US forces by working with them has also been left behind in the form of biometric data that has now been seized by the Taliban.

Wallace told LBC radio: “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.

The failure to destroy the documents is another headache for Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab. (PA)
The failure to destroy the documents is another headache for Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab. (PA)

“I think the Prime Minister will be asking some questions, I think we need to understand, quite rightly, how that happened.”

Former foreign and defence secretary Lord Hammond said there would have been a “big exercise in destroying documents” but any failures would be serious.

Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy urged the Government to “urgently assess” the individuals who have been exposed by the breach and whether operations may have been “compromised”.

“The Foreign Secretary has claimed he was too busy overseeing operational decisions to call the Afghan foreign minister. This incident raises questions about what precisely he was doing in the hours before Kabul fell to the Taliban,” the Labour MP said.

“The destruction of sensitive materials and the safe evacuation of the embassy should have been a top priority.”

The Foreign Office said: "During the drawdown of our embassy every effort was made to destroy sensitive material."

The report will add to criticism of the Foreign Office already came under fire for its handling of the crisis in Afghanistan.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab was criticised for going on holiday despite the escalating situation in the country in recent weeks. He returned on 15 August, the same day Kabul fell.

Plymouth MP Johnny Mercer, a former British Army officer, shared a video on Twitter outlining equipment that had been left by the US and now seized by the Taliban, writing: "This will stop you in your tracks. Unbelievable.

"We gave them the names of those we trained to fight them. And some we will leave behind to the violence we see at the airport. An appalling day, verging from rage to tears."

It has also been reported that US officials in Kabul gave the Taliban a list of names of American citizens and Afghan allies to grant them entry into the militant-controlled outer perimeter of Kabul's Airport - sparking criticism of the decision. 

Watch: Defence Secretary says there's 'only a matter of hours' left to evacuate those in Afghanistan

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