Boris Johnson under Fire over Being on Holiday Hours before the Fall of Kabul
By Staff, Agencies
Reports on Monday suggested that both British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab were on holiday at the same time just a few hours before the Taliban captured the Afghan capital Kabul.
Former senior UK military and security figures have hit out at Johnson's and Raab's departure for a holiday on Saturday, despite public warnings the Taliban might enter Kabul within hours.
Both men were away Saturday as Taliban was rapidly advancing on the Afghan capital, suggesting "the scale at which Johnson and Raab were caught off-guard," according to The Mirror.
Major General Charlie Herbert, who is known for undertaking three tours of duty in Afghanistan between 2007 and 2018 underscored that "it is almost impossible to believe that the prime minister departed on holiday on Saturday; he should hang his head in shame."
Herbert described Johnson's departure as "dereliction of duty on an extraordinary scale." He also accused the PM of "overseeing one of the greatest military humiliations in the recent history of this country."
"Three weeks ago General Lord Dannatt and 44 other senior retired military officers wrote openly to the government to express their grave concern about the handling of the interpreter issue and urged the government to accelerate the relocations [of Afghan interpreters to the UK]. That they [government ministers] failed to heed the warning is symptomatic of the disastrous complacency that has led to this national humiliation. The interpreters will die as a result of their apathy," the general said.
Peter Ricketts, a former chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee [JIC], told The Guardian that Johnson's departure on holiday was "one more piece of evidence that Whitehall as a whole failed to anticipate either the scale or the speed of the collapse of the Afghan regime and the implications for British interests."
He was echoed by Alan West, a former first sea lord and chief of the naval staff, who said he would be "extremely surprised and indeed appalled if the JIC and assessments staffs were not predicting a very rapid collapse of the Afghan regime in the face of Taliban pressure by Saturday."
"In view of that I find the prime minister's decision to go on holiday surprising. I also find the foreign secretary's absence baffling. Holidays are important but not crucial. World events have a remarkable habit of happening in August and the government needs to be capable of responding quickly," West underscored.
Former UK Defense Secretary George Robertson, for his part, said it is "stunning" that Raab "would stay on holiday as our mission in Afghanistan disintegrated". According to Robertson, who is also an ex-NATO secretary general, "the horrors unfolding with every minute demand focused attention from the top."
On Sunday, the Taliban wrapped up their takeover of Afghanistan by entering the capital Kabul. President Ashraf Ghani left the country to prevent what he described as bloodshed that he said would occur if the group had to fight for the city.
By Sunday, just dozens of British officials and diplomats remained in Afghanistan, down from around 500 earlier last week, with Ambassador Laurie Bristow expected to leave in the next few days.