Dominic Raab faced the media round from hell this morning. The former Foreign Secretary faced a series of questions about evidence published by a former Foreign Office official over the government’s handling of the Afghanistan crisis.
Raphael Marshall – an Oxford graduate with three years in the diplomatic service – worked in the department’s special cases team during the evacuation efforts. In testimony given to the foreign affairs select committee published on Tuesday, Marshall has given an account of the dysfunction and chaos he says dominated the government response.
Among the most eye-catching claims:
1. Animals were prioritised over humans
During the evacuation, there was a very public row over the summer between the animal charity Nowzad and Defence Secretary Ben Wallace over whether they should be given government help to leave. In his testimony, Marshall claims that the Foreign office ‘received an instruction from the Prime Minister’ to use ‘considerable capacity’ to help get the animals out of Afghanistan. He said this decision – which led to uproar in the Ministry of Defence – meant there was ‘a direct trade-off between transporting Nowzad’s animals and evacuating British nationals and Afghan evacuees, including Afghans who had served with British soldiers.’
2. Thousands of emails were not processed correctly
Despite claims that the government would log each request for evacuation, many went unread. After widespread anger at thousands of emails slipping through the net, a new system was brought in. Marshall says all emails were then read – but he alleges that nothing was done about them – suggesting the main purpose of the new system was to ‘allow the Prime Minister and the then Foreign Secretary to inform MPs that there were no unread emails’. Marshall suggests the new system served ‘a public relations purpose’ – noting it was locked temporarily.