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Britain let Afghans die

Issue 2784

An Afghan child watched an army helicopter in 2008 (Timor Mangal

A civil servant has lifted the lid on how the government “left people to die” during its evacuation of Afghanistan in August.

Raphael Marshall worked for the “Afghan Special Cases” team, which chose which people Britain would evacuate from Afghanistan. He said only 5 percent of the 150,000 people who asked for help got any.

Tory MP Tom Tugendhat and the front pages of right wing newspapers said the problem was that civil servants were working from home. That’s a cynical ploy to shift the blame and attack Covid safety measures. The real problem is that British governments don’t care about the people whose lives their wars destroy.

The Special Cases team was supposed to make sure that only people who had helped Britain’s occupation of Afghanistan got evacuated.


Civil servants in London decided who could escape and who would be abandoned. Dominic Raab, then foreign secretary, even wanted a personal say on “difficult cases.” Meanwhile, staff were scared to make “hundreds of life and death decisions about which they knew nothing.”

So as hundreds of thousands of people tried to flee, the government put up barriers—protected by soldiers and civil servants—against them.

The scandal isn’t that Britain let down some of the few who collaborated with it. It’s that, after two decades of war, it wants to wash its hands of the people who paid the price.

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