The political future of Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab appears uncertain following damning whistleblower revelations about the Afghanistan evacuation.
There were calls for his resignation from his current post after it was disclosed on Tuesday that as foreign secretaryduring the crisis in August Mr Raab allegedly delayed decisions in allowing Afghans out.
The UK politician was demoted as foreign secretary following the debacle after he chose to remain on holiday despite Afghanistan’s collapse with thousands of British-employed locals vulnerable to violent Taliban retribution.
In one of the most stinging accusations, Raphael Marshall, the junior Foreign Office official who disclosed the revelations, said Mr Raab led a “chaotic” operation allegedly taking hours to respond to case notes, only to ask for them to be laid out “in a well-presented table to make decisions”.
His evidence, originally given to senior officials, led to the launch of an internal inquiry and probably resulted in Mr Raab’s demotion from foreign secretary.
Mr Marshall, 25, is an Oxford University graduate who served for three years in the diplomatic service, and had volunteered to work on the special cases team at the height of the crisis.
In his evidence to the Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC), Mr Marshall, who has since left the department, said at times he was the only person processing emails sent to the government’s Afghan Special Cases inbox.
This team handled the files of Afghan journalists, aid workers and civil servants who were at risk because of their British ties. As many as 150,000 people applied for evacuation, yet less than 5 per cent received help.
Some were murdered after being left behind in Kabul after the Taliban swept to power, Mr Marshall said.
“These allegations are serious and go to the heart of the failures of leadership around the Afghan disaster,” said Tom Tugendhat, the FAC chairman investigating Britain’s response. “These failures betrayed our friends and allies and squandered decades of British and Nato effort.”
He added that Mr Marshall’s evidence demonstrated an official view as “one of lack of interest, and bureaucracy over humanity”.
Emily Thornberry, the shadow attorney general, said Mr Raab should consider his position in the Cabinet in light of the testimony, which she said she was “disgusted” and “truly shocked” to hear.
“There is plenty of evidence that Dominic Raab is not capable of making the sort of decisions that our country deserves in any way,” the Labour MP told Sky News.
One of Mr Marshall’s allegations was that Mr Raab “declined to make a decision” on whether to admit a group of women’s rights activists “without a properly formatted submission with a table setting out multiple cases”.
The politician, who was on the Mediterranean island of Crete during the evacuation, claimed it was “not correct” that junior officers were making decisions.
“There’s a difference between processing and deciding, so I’m afraid I don’t accept that characterisation,” he said in a BBC interview, adding there had been “a reasonably swift turnaround” on decisions.
“Some of the criticism seems rather dislocated from the facts on the ground, the operational pressures that with the takeover of the Taliban, unexpected around the world,” he said. “I do think that not enough recognition has been given to quite how difficult it was.”
Mr Marshall also alleged the process of selecting who could be airlifted out was “arbitrary and dysfunctional”, with thousands of emails going unread and colleagues “visibly appalled by our chaotic system”.
His testimony will provide a crucial insight when top Foreign Office officials face what will be a tough round of questions before the FAC on Tuesday afternoon.
The former British ambassador in Kabul, the Foreign Office permanent under-secretary and the prime minister’s special representative for Afghanistan will all be examined on their roles during the crisis.
Mr Marshall’s evidence is also likely to put the government under further pressure to announce an inquiry into the Afghanistan debacle.