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Don’t panic Captain Mainwaring!

September 4, 2021 10:41 AM

7n3s (Photo by Steve Tsang on Unsplash)Viewers of the umpteenth repeat of the BBC comedy classic Dads Army will recall that whenever the pressure is on or things go a bit awry you can always depend on Lance Corporal Jones to rush around shouting " Don't panic Captain Mainwaring" to no real affect

Very funny it is too but the scene reminds us very much of the governments current reaction to the unfolding debacle which surrounds the retreat from Afghanistan. This week we had the Foreign Secretary giving evidence to a parliamentary committee saying he was surprised by the speed of the Taliban advance even though his own department had assessed such an outcome was highly possible only in July. Neither he nor the Prime Minister have explained why they both chose to be on holiday as the fall of Kabul was imminent.
If you had any doubt about the failure of the government during the crisis you have only to watch and listen to the Foreign Office, Ministry of Defence and Home Office briefing against each other, blaming each other for the failure to spot the impending disaster and plan an orderly evacuation. Afghans who worked with our forces have been waiting in many cases since April to be told if they are eligible even to come to the U.K. The delay is shameful and has nothing to do with recent events
The unedifying sight of ministers fighting like ferrets in a sack is unacceptable. All energies should be on how to deal with the fallout of the situation not trying to protect personal reputations. In that context the views of Mark Sedwill, a former ambassador to Afghanistan and senior adviser to two British prime ministers, are very sobering. Speaking at a Policy Exchange thinktank event, Sedwill said Britain and its allies have no coherent plan to deal with the huge refugee crisis expected to follow the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan.

To bring some context to the shambles the government has created The Guardian reports that just one of the team of 125 British embassy guards who were promised help to leave Afghanistan by the Foreign Office has made it to the UK. When they first applied for help in May they were rejected from the Ministry of Defence's emergency assistance scheme because they were contracted workers rather than direct employees of the government a subtlety that would be lost on the Taliban,. After media and MP pressure

two weeks ago, the armed forces minister, James Heappey, announced that the were in the process of being evacuated. In fact none of them had been rescued, although that morning the company had mounted a successful extraction operation for all its expatriate staff. The Foreign Office then promised "We will help all those Afghan security guards contracted through GardaWorld to protect the embassy. They will be granted the right to enter the UK and we are now working through the challenging logistics of getting them out of Kabul."

Contrast this with the US US who successfully evacuated around 500 of its embassy guards, who were also employed under a parallel contract by GardaWorld, along with their families.