Afghanistan withdrawal 'highlighted very worst of political leadership', says Dan Jarvis

The Afghanistan withdrawal “highlighted the very worst of political leadership” but the best of the nation’s servicemen and women, South Yorkshire Mayor and military veteran Dan Jarvis has said.

In his mayoral Christmas message, Mr Jarvis, who was in the Parachute Regiment and served in Afghanistan before his move into politics, said the Taliban’s return to power earlier this year had been especially hard to witness for those who had lost loved ones in the UK’s campaign in the country.

He praised the soldiers who were involved in Operation Pitting, the evacuation of British nationals and Afghan allies which saw more than 15,000 people airlifted to safety but while not naming anyone specifically, criticised the overall political handling of the situation.

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

Mr Jarvis said: “The summer saw our long-standing military and political commitment in Afghanistan brought to a dramatic close.

“After two decades of conflict in which tens of thousands lost their lives, the Taliban reclaimed power at breathtaking speed. I am acutely aware how distressing those scenes were for families who lost loves ones and for veterans who served in the campaign.

“It is difficult to draw any positives, especially when Afghanistan is on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe.

“But while the withdrawal highlighted the very worst of political leadership, Operation Pitting shone a light on the absolute best of our young servicemen and women.”

Earlier this month, new Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said her department had lessons to learn from the handling of the Afghanistan evacuation, with her predecessor Dominic Raab and the Foreign Office’s top civil servant Sir Philip Barton both on holiday as Kabul fell.

Former official Raphael Marshall, who worked for the Foreign Office during the evacuation effort, claimed that of the Afghan nationals who applied to flee under one UK scheme just five per cent received help, as a result of the “dysfunctional” and “chaotic” handling of the situation.

Mr Marshall recently told MPs that some of those hoping to escape were murdered after being left behind in Kabul.

Ms Truss said there was now better risk monitoring, a better emergency response system, and better processes for deploying staff at speed in the event of a crisis.

Giving evidence to MPs earlier this month, former ambassador to Afghanistan Sir Laurie Bristow said he had warned officials in London around August 13 that Kabul was likely to be overrun by Taliban fighters.

According to reports, Mr Raab, who was then foreign secretary, did not return from his holiday on the Greek island of Crete until August 16 – three days after Sir Laurie had flagged that Afghanistan was falling more quickly than anticipated.

Mr Raab said “some of the criticism seems rather dislocated from the facts on the ground”.

“I do think that not enough recognition has been given to quite how difficult it was,” he told the BBC.

Charities have warned that one million children in Afghanistan under the age of five are at risk of dying of starvation over the next three months.

Actress Gillian Anderson, who is supporting the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) Afghanistan Crisis Appeal, said: “Currently, women and girls in Afghanistan are going through pregnancy and labour in unimaginable conditions without a home or enough food to eat, and with the healthcare system falling apart.

“Hospitals are having to close due to a lack of supplies and medics. Newborn babies are already dying from malnutrition.”

To find out more about the DEC Appeal or to donate, visit this webpage.

Support The Yorkshire Post and become a subscriber today. Your subscription will help us to continue to bring quality news to the people of Yorkshire. In return, you'll see fewer ads on site, get free access to our app and receive exclusive members-only offers. Click here to subscribe.