British embassy ‘left details’ of local Afghan staff for Taliban to discover

Foreign Office staff left documents with the contact details of Afghans working for them in the British embassy in Kabul when they left the country before the Taliban’s arrival in the capital, it has emerged.

Anthony Loyd, The Times’s war correspondent, found the papers, which identified seven Afghans, as Taliban fighters patrolled the embassy around him. He spotted the “dusty” sheets of paper “scattered by the ashes of a barbecue in the backyard of a British embassy residency building” as the “militants looked on”.

The embassy’s evacuation procedure requires the shredding and destruction of all data that could compromise local Afghan staff, their families or potential employees. However, this protocol appears not to have been observed in the haste to leave the site as the Taliban closed in.

“Did the young Afghan man, who applied for a job at the embassy this summer, proudly listing his previous experience working for the US military in Helmand on his CV, deserve to have his name, phone number and full address left by the embassy for the Taliban to read?”, asked Loyd.

Although the paper said it handed over details of the missing staff to the Foreign Office, who helped to co-ordinate their evacuation from Kabul, at least two job applicants for positions as interpreters with the British, whose contact details were left in the embassy compound, have not been found.

Some embassy staff were stranded near Kabul airport amid fears that Afghans who worked alongside Western governments could face reprisals from the Taliban. Among them were three Afghan staff and eight family members, including five children.

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The Telegraph pointed out that the news comes at a sensitive time, after Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab was criticised for dismissing a request to speak with his Afghan counterpart to discuss the evacuation of interpreters who worked for Britain two days before the fall of Kabul.

The Times said the “fate of Afghans who worked alongside western diplomats and troops, and who may face reprisals after being left behind” has become an “emblem of the West’s retreat from Afghanistan”.

The Foreign Office has insisted that staff had tried to destroy sensitive material before leaving the embassy, with a spokesperson telling Sky News that staff “have worked tirelessly to secure the safety of those who worked for us including getting three families to safety.

“The drawdown of our embassy was done at pace as the situation in Kabul deteriorated. Every effort was made to destroy sensitive material.”

Meanwhile, The Guardian said that a “last-ditch” attempt to evacuate all the British embassy guards on one of the final flights out of Afghanistan has also failed, leaving them “increasingly frightened about their future”.



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