Afghanistan withdrawal a 'dark chapter in UK military history', defence committee chair says

A British soldier going on foot patrol in Afghanistan.
The withdrawal from Afghanistan is a "dark chapter for UK." Credit: PA

The UK withdrawal from Afghanistan is a "dark chapter in UK military history," the chairman of the Commons Defence Committee has said as MPs published a report into the evacuation.

The report called for an "open, honest and detailed review" of the UK’s involvement in Afghanistan from 2001 until the chaotic conclusion in 2021.

The 30-page report from the cross-party Commons Defence Committee also calls on the government to set out what action it is taking to ensure safe passage to the UK for several thousand Afghans still eligible for evacuation.

MPs said that the evacuation, in August 2021, saw 15,000 people brought to the UK but many also left behind.

Defence Committee chairman Tobias Ellwood Credit: Yui Mok/PA

The report pointed out the limits of NATO when the US is involved.

The evacuation timeline was effectively dictated by the US at the time as no other nation had the resources to maintain such a huge operation.

The Commons committee report also had criticism for officials involved in the events of the summer of 2021.

"While it was never going to be possible to evacuate everyone who met the eligibility criteria as part of the operation, there was an obvious lack of effective co-ordination across government, with real and painful human consequences for those who reasonably expected to be evacuated but were not," MPs said.

"Well over a year since the end of Operation Pitting, thousands of Afghans eligible for evacuation remain in Afghanistan," Mr Ellwood said.

He said that the committee was calling for a government review "to take an unflinching look at where we went wrong".

British soldiers pulled out of Afghanistan in 2021. Credit: PA

"It is only through this that we can learn the necessary lessons and prevent this from ever happening again."

A Ministry of Defence spokesperson said: "We owe a debt of gratitude to Afghan citizens who worked for, or with, the UK armed forces in Afghanistan and to date we have relocated over 12,100 individuals under the scheme.

"During Operation Pitting we worked tirelessly to safely evacuate as many people out of Afghanistan as possible, airlifting more than 15,000 people from Kabul and their dependants.

"We estimate there are approximately 300 eligible principals to identify and our priority is finding them and bringing them and their families to the UK. In doing this, we are prioritising minimising risk to life, maximising the pace of relocations out of Afghanistan and ensuring when individuals arrive here in the UK, they are set up for a successful life.”

The spokesperson also said: "We acknowledge the report and its recommendations and will be providing a response in due course."

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know