UK “intelligence failure” on Afghanistan

September 3, 2021 - 18:19

A leaked UK Foreign Office report seen by British media warned government ministers on July 22 that the withdrawal of U.S.-led foreign forces from Afghanistan would lead to "rapid Taliban advances".

The department's own intelligence, suggests Afghanistan's cities were in danger of being taken over in the aftermath of the departure of foreign military personnel at the end of August 2021.

During a two-hour grilling, the British Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, was asked by the Foreign Affairs Committee why he didn’t act on the assessment warning by his own ministry? Raab defended his government’s action telling the hearing that other intelligence had suggested Kabul was “unlikely” to fall this year. 

Raab did admit the UK had been “caught out and surprised by the scale and speed of the fall of Kabul”, accepting lessons would have to be learned from how the intelligence assessment was made. 

The chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Tom Tugendhat, dismissed Raab’s assessment saying “the [leaked] document clearly indicates "the fall of cities", the "collapse of security forces" and that the embassy "may need to close”… a warning like this... was made on 22 July”.

He also said there has been an “intelligence failure” on the part of British Government. 

Hours after the hearing, Raab flew out to Qatar seeking safe passage for British nationals held up in Afghanistan amid growing public anger back home. 

From 2013, Doha housed the political wing of the Taliban and is encouraging dialogue with the group despite not recognizing them as the government yet.

London, under former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, declared its stance in 2001 to stand “shoulder to shoulder” with Washington, when the U.S. waged its so-called war on terror, beginning with the invasion of Afghanistan.

On the ground in Afghanistan, Taliban sources say the leader of the new government, set to be announced very soon, will be the group’s co-founder Mullah Abdul-Ghani Baradar. Mullah Baradar currents leads the Taliban’s political bureau. Initial reports indicated an announcement would be made by Friday.

In Washington, the Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has said that President Joe Biden will not be impeached over his administration’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan because both the House and Senate are Democrat-controlled.

In other developments, the president of the European Parliament has warned that the European Union must prepare for the influx of Afghan migrants who the EU says are set to flee the Taliban. David Sassoli told a conference in Slovenia, that “we cannot pretend that Afghanistan is not our business because we participated in that mission" 

Elsewhere, the United Nations spokesman says humanitarian flights have resumed to northern and southern Afghanistan. Stephane Dujarric told reporters the UN Humanitarian Air Service is now operating flights "to enable 160 humanitarian organizations to continue their life-saving activities in Afghanistan's provinces" 

He also says officials are working to establish a cargo air bridge to transport non-food items, such as medical and other emergency supplies.

A team from Qatar landed at the destroyed airport in Kabul, the first airliner to arrive there since the U.S. withdrawal and the first step towards getting the facility back up and running as a lifeline for aid. Qatar says it was working with the Taliban to reopen the airport as soon as possible. Turkey also says it was evaluating proposals from the Taliban and others for a role in running the airport.

Analysts say the delivery of vital humanitarian aid is of utmost importance to avoid violence in the country. According to U.S. officials, Kabul airport is in bad condition, with much of its basic infrastructure degraded or destroyed. 

Some experts have blamed the disastrous U.S. exit for potential heavy damage to the Afghan economy. 

A report by Fitch Solutions, the research arm of credit rating agency Fitch Group, says "the highly disruptive manner in which the U.S.'s security forces left the country and the Taliban takeover will mean that the economic pains for the country will be felt acutely over the short term". 

Nevertheless, the White House says it has no plans to release billions of dollars in Afghan assets including gold, investments, and foreign currency reserves in the United States that Washington froze after the Taliban's takeover. 

This is despite pressure from humanitarian groups and others who say the cost may be the collapse of Afghanistan's economy.

Much of the Afghan central bank's $10 billion in assets are parked overseas where they are considered important leverage for the West to pressure the Taliban. 

Meanwhile, celebrations have taken place marking the exit of the final U.S. troops to end a two-decade war, the Taliban have showcased some of the military hardware they captured during their takeover of Afghanistan. Taliban forces celebrated with gunfire on Tuesday after the last U.S. forces abandoned Kabul following a two-decade war.

Footage shows a long line of green Humvees and armored fighting vehicles drove in single file along a highway outside Kandahar, the spiritual birthplace of the movement, many flying white-and-black Taliban flags. 

At least one Black Hawk helicopter has been seen flying over Kandahar, suggesting a pilot with the former U.S. trained Afghan army was at the controls as the Taliban lack the expertise to fly the helicopter. 

The U.S.-led war, 20 years ago, has destroyed much of the country’s vital infrastructure, economy while claiming the lives of hundreds of thousands of Afghans, more than 2,400 American troops and saw the emergence of new Takfiri terrorists groups.

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