Whistle-blower’s Account of Britain’s Afghan Evacuation Effort Rings Alarm Bells


Litany of disasters: The testimony from the whistle-blower at the British Foreign Office on the pull-out from Afghanistan has been devastating. That there was no staff to handle the pull-out, that those around did not know the Afghan language, or just did not care. That thousands of SOS emails were never looked at. That former foreign secretary Dominic Raab, since removed from the job, did not take decisions, or delegate them, which meant that many have died and many more will as a result of this failure. The one positive outcome is the encouragement this should offer to more whistleblowers in government service everywhere.

Taking it easy: The revelation has been followed by an admission from Sir Philip Barton, a top official in the Foreign Office, who was briefly the high commissioner to India in the summer of 2020, that he remained on holiday for 11 days after Kabul fell to the Taliban, and then he returned only the day before the UK ended its evacuation, such as it was. Between one thing and another, the message will be long remembered, that British promises can never be taken at face value and that Britain has no difficulty at all in abandoning to their deaths those who risked their lives working for them.

Ominous signs of Omicron: Worrying signs are emerging as Omicron spreads in the UK. Not just the 45,000 and more cases reported on Tuesday, but that the number of hospitalisations is beginning to rise, as is the number of deaths. In all 180 deaths were reported Tuesday, and the number in hospital rose by about a hundred to hit 7,317. These are early days with the new variant. Some reports suggest that Pfizer, the favoured vaccine in the UK may not work very effectively against Omicron. There is still hope, though, that the new variant may not lead to more serious illness even if it does spread faster.

A bus route through UK’s Indian neighbourhoods: To see where Indians live in large numbers in Britain, the quickest way might just be to look at the timetable of Bharat Coaches. The bus service starts, appropriately from Southall, and goes on to link Slough, Leicester, Birmingham, Leeds, and just about every place in Britain that has an unmistakable Indian touch. Inevitably Indian families are spread out across these areas, and if not driving, this is the favoured way of keeping those connections going. It helps that the route is lined with bhangra singing and Bollywood films on board.

Few voters for ‘Sikh referendum’: It takes some jogging of memory to recall that such a thing as the Sikh referendum had been called. The group Sikhs for Justice has, for what it is worth, been going ahead with the motions of the exercise, among a handful of Khalistanis already converted to the cause. The predictable champion of the move, behind the Sikhs for Justice group, has been Pakistan’s ISI. No surprises there.

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