Raphael Marshall, today’s author, exposes the utterly pathetic state of the Foreign Office following Kabul’s fall to the Taliban on 39 pages.

Thousands of Afghans, desperate for safety and protection, appealed to Britain to fly them to safety.

The junior diplomat, however, was often the last person to deal with the hundreds or hundreds of emails that were sent, nearly all of which were pleading for assistance.

In a detailed written statement to the Commons foreign affairs committee, published today, Mr Marshall – described by the committee as a ‘whistleblower’ – outlines how chronic staffing shortages at the department were compounded by colleagues working from home, refusing to work weekends and sticking to the culture of eight-hour shifts ‘despite the urgency’ of the situation.

According to the junior diplomat who is now out of the Foreign Office’s Foreign Office, the delay in making decisions by Dominic Raab, the former foreign secretary, obstructed the effort to evacuate.

Raphael Marshall (pictured), a junior civil servant, has claimed he was at times the only person dealing with thousands of emails from those desperate to flee the Taliban

Raphael Marshall (pictured), junior civil servant claimed that he dealt with many thousands of emails received from people trying to escape the Taliban.

Britain's former foreign secretary Dominic Raab answers questions on Government policy on Afghanistan during a meeting of the Foreign Affairs Committee in September

The Foreign Affairs Committee met in September to ask Dominic Raab, Britain’s former foreign Secretary, questions regarding the Government’s policy towards Afghanistan.

Here, John Stevens details Mr Marshall’s damning claims about the performance of his former department during one of the worst crises in its recent history.


Marshall, a graduate of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office in Whitehall, is assigned to the Special Cases group. 

It was distinct from the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy program that dealt with the cases of Afghans working directly for the UK Government (e.g. translators). 

Instead, the Special Cases dealt with the claims of those at risk because of their links with the UK – including Afghan soldiers, politicians, journalists, civil servants, activists, aid workers and judges, as well as guards and others who worked through sub-contractors.

In his statement, he estimates that ‘between 75,000 and 150,000 people (including dependants) applied for evacuation’ via the Special Cases team but concludes, damningly, that fewer than five per cent ‘have received any assistance’. 

He writes: ‘It is clear that some of those left behind have since been murdered by the Taliban.’


According to the whistleblower, many emails sent by Special Cases were not read. There was a total of 5,000 email addresses that had been unread during the worst of the crisis. 

He says many of those pleading for help detailed ‘grave human rights abuses’ by the Taliban, including ‘murders, rapes and burning of homes’. 

He says that while the emails received an automated response that they had been ‘logged’, this was ‘usually false’.

Taliban fighters pose for a photograph in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 19 earlier this year

Taliban fighters pose in a photo taken in Kabul (Afghanistan) on August 19, earlier this year.


On the afternoon of Saturday August 21 –halfway through the two-week effort to rescue Afghans from Kabul – Mr Marshall reveals he ‘was the only person monitoring and processing emails in the Afghan Special Cases inbox’. 

He adds: ‘No emails from after early Friday afternoon had been read at that point. There were already thousands of emails unread, I’m estimating above 5,000, with more coming every day. 

There were four others who had been given the Special Cases roster but did not show up on shift. Although I wasn’t originally rostered, I decided I would be morally responsible for putting myself down as I realized the team wasn’t full staffed. 

If I had not, it is possible there would have been no one to process the emails at all.’

He continues: ‘These emails were desperate and urgent. I was struck by many titles including phrases such as “please save my children”.’

British Paratroopers desperately tried to maintain contact with him at Kabul airport. 

Many people were trying to get away that weekend and crowded the airport.

Afghan people sit inside a US military aircraft preparing to leave Afghanistan via the military airport in Kabul in August

Afghans sit in a US military plane as they prepare to depart Afghanistan through the Kabul military airport.


‘In my opinion, staffing shortages were exacerbated by some staff working from home, which hampered communication,’ writes Mr Marshall. 

‘This was on occasion significant in a context where policy was poorly defined and the situation unclear.’

According to him, on the two nights of the evacuation no one was assigned to the night shift in his team that dealt with requests for assistance. 

He writes: ‘Despite the urgency of the situation, the default expectation remained that FCDO staff would only work eight hours a day, five days a week. 

Only staff were asked to do the shifts they had volunteered for. Due to these less-popular shifts, there was likely to be a decrease in night shifts as well as fewer weekend workers. I believe this reflects a deliberate drive by the FCDO to prioritise “work-life balance”.’ 

He says staff who worked more than their designated hours ‘were often encouraged to leave by colleagues’ and senior leaders suggested working more than eight hours was ‘inefficient’.


The Foreign Office, London, sent soldiers to process appeals for assistance. This was despite the fact that the department employed more than 17,000 diplomats around the world. 

They were not given passwords so for almost a day ‘the soldiers worked with one computer shared between roughly eight people’. 

‘This obviously considerably reduced their efficiency and speed,’ says Mr Marshall.

Taliban forces patrol a runway a day after US troops withdrew from Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul in August

A day after US troops left Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul in August, Taliban forces patrolled a runway.


For one week ‘emails were processed by marking them with a flag once read but were not entered’ into the Foreign Office’s database of people requesting to be evacuated. 

The whistleblower states his opinion that ‘the purpose of this was to allow the Prime Minister and the then foreign secretary to inform MPs that there were no unread emails’. 

All incoming messages ‘received an automatic response that the request for assistance had been “logged”,’ adds Mr Marshall. 

‘This was usually false. In thousands of cases emails were not even read.’


The Foreign Office’s ‘process for selecting which Afghan applicants to evacuate was not credible’, according to Mr Marshall. 

‘Usually little distinction was observed between applicants who explained a specific risk, for example that they had received specific death threats… and between applicants who merely referred to the general risk posed by the Taliban coming to power.’ 

He adds: ‘Some decisions made are likely impossible to justify. For example, I understand that we evacuated the BBC’s Afghan cooking and cleaning staff. 

Although I wish these people the best, it is impossible to justify why they were prioritised above interpreters or others at much greater risk and had performed much greater services to the UK.’

At least 13 people including children were killed in a blast outside the airport on August 26

On August 26, at least 13 people were among them, children included.


Marshall claims that there were very few or no effective discussions between the Foreign Office, Ministry of Defence and Marshall. One colleague commented that failure to coordinate could have disastrous consequences for the rescue mission. 

There was also no co-ordination with the US authorities, which he says may have led to ‘duplicate visas’. 

Officials opposed the sharing of evacuation lists, suggesting that this may have violated European Data Protection Laws. 

He says an email he wrote warning people might die unless things improved was criticised for being ‘shrill’.