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Afghanistan will never forgive us

A US plane at Kabul airport during the evacuation last August

“All the cameras have left for another war” is the devastating line from a poem by the Polish writer Wislawa Szymborska, says Christina Lamb in The Sunday Times. I was reminded of it recently in a restaurant in the Ukrainian city of Dnipro when I ran into three fellow journalists. All long-time Afghan hands, we were still “in shock” at Britain’s bungled evacuation last summer. When the Taliban seized Kabul on August 15, “Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab, then foreign secretary, and Sir Philip Barton, the Foreign Office’s top civil servant, were all on holiday”. As his department struggled to implement a poorly planned evacuation, Barton did not think it necessary to return until 11 days later.

“This will come home to haunt us.” As the number of migrants crossing the Channel keeps rising, the biggest proportion are Afghans fleeing the Taliban. And the fact that Afghanistan has once again become a “magnet for jihadists” is terrifying. The UN says al-Qaeda enjoys “increased freedom of action” in the country, and that 41 members of the Taliban on the UN sanctions list for terrorism have been appointed to top positions in government. Meanwhile, those Afghans we did get to the UK are stuck in hotels, watching Ukrainian refugees being welcomed into people’s homes, while they wait for asylum papers. When they call the Home Office, it is busy dealing with Ukrainians. “Afghans will never forgive us.”