OPPOSITION politicians are calling for an inquiry into the Government’s handling of the Afghanistan withdrawal as the UK winds up its evacuation efforts.
The Liberal Democrats and Labour have both said there are questions which remain unanswered about the operation, which has seen thousands evacuated from the country in the last two weeks.
Yesterday at least 100 people, including 90 Afghans and 13 US soldiers, were killed when two suicide bombers detonated explosives among a crowd of people waiting to get out.
President Joe Biden has pledged to “hunt down” those responsible.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the end of the evacuation marked a “sad and dark day” and said the Government has “serious questions to answer.
In a statement, he said: “After the despicable acts of violence we witnessed on Thursday, the end of the evacuation from Kabul Airport marks a sad and dark day for many people in Afghanistan.”
He added: “The British Government must take its fair share of the responsibility and has serious questions to answer about how, despite having 18 months to prepare, their failure to plan and inability to influence others has contributed to this tragic political failure.
“We must urgently help the thousands who we have left behind, some of whom are eligible for relocation under the Arap scheme. There are MPs all over the UK who have constituents still pleading for their help.
“The Government must work quickly to deliver a strategy to get those people out and work with the UN and partners to quickly deliver essential aid directly to those in need.”
He also said Boris Johnson’s government must outline the roadmap plan, agreed with other G7 leaders, to hold the Taliban to account and help those Afghans left behind.
Mr Starmer said: “Before Parliament returns, the Prime Minister should set out in detail the G7 roadmap he has promised, including a plan to control Afghan financial assets, and a strategy to ensure Afghanistan does not become a haven for terror and a threat to our security once again.”
Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey today has written to Mr Johnson calling for a “short but urgent” inquiry into the Afghan crisis.
He explained: “As the last UK flight leaves Kabul, it’s alarmingly clear that our withdrawal from Afghanistan will go down in history as one of the worst UK foreign policy disasters.
“With thousands of Afghans who supported us now trapped under the brutal Taliban regime, serious questions need to be answered about why things turned out the way they did and what could’ve been done differently.”
Mr Davey said there needed to be an explanation about the length of time it took to begin evacuating interpreters, why Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab was on holiday when Kabul fell to the Taliban, and “how did UK intelligence get the situation so badly wrong”.
He added: “We need a short inquiry now to answer these questions and determine the facts. Only then can Ministers be held accountable for their fateful decisions which have resulted in thousands being left fearing for their lives.
“We also must hear from the Prime Minister about how the UK Government plans to assist those stranded in Afghanistan going forward. We cannot simply turn our backs on them now.”
This morning defence secretary Ben Wallace said there could be as many as 1100 Afghans who would be eligible to come to the UK left behind as troops prepare to leave.
He said: “We think down to approximately 100-150 British nationals left in the estimated pot, some of those are willingly staying.”
Mr Wallace then gave figures for those who could be helped under the Afghan relocations and assistance policy (Arap) scheme.
“It was actually double the number of people we thought we’d get out and we’re now way above the original, even the estimates, of the total Arap, which is nearly hitting 10,000, it will go over 10,000 we think today, from April,” he said.
“We think there will be circa between 800 and 1,100 Arap that didn’t make it.”
Boris Johnson said last night the terror attack would not affect the UK’s withdrawal and evacuation plans, which are coming to an end imminently.
No more Afghans are to be called forward for evacuation but those on the ground whose applications have been processed are expected to be able to leave.