Email pleas for help in evacuation of Kabul were hampered by an IT failure that is still not fixed. Second whistleblower exposes

  • It was a disaster for the Foreign Office because it couldn’t access emails sent by desperate Afghans.
  • Raphael Marshall was an ex-civil servant and made shocking revelations to MPs. He said that staff could not access emails sent by Afghans to them, begging for their rescue.
  • The issue hasn’t been solved by a second whistleblower.

Unable to read emails from Afghans in desperate need of assistance, some Foreign Office employees were prevented by Whitehall IT fraud. A new whistleblower says that this has not been resolved.

Due to their separate computers, communications among officials from different areas of The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office were limited during the Kabul emergency airlift.

Raphael Marshall, an ex-civil servant, revealed to MPs in an amazing testimony yesterday how staff couldn’t access emails from Afghans and pleaded for security. 

He wrote how officials trying to help were ‘visibly appalled by our chaotic system’.

Pictured: Afghan people climb atop a plane as they wait at the Kabul airport in Kabul on August 16, 2021, after a stunningly swift end to Afghanistan's 20-year war

Pictured: Afghan people climb atop a plane as they wait at the Kabul airport in Kabul on August 16, 2021, after a stunningly swift end to Afghanistan’s 20-year war

A department employee has now spoken out about the problems that remain after the merger of Foreign Office and Department for International Development.

They told the Mail yesterday: ‘To this day, the FCDO and Dfid IT systems are not synchronised. In some instances we cannot send emails or messages to our ex-Dfid counterparts and have to do it instead using our personal phones.’

‘We run two different softwares, on which the majority of our work is done. They don’t work together.

‘On email, it is common for our messages not to go through because of security limitations.’

The Foreign Office civil servant continued: ‘If a major crisis happened tomorrow – such as Russia invading Ukraine – we are still in the position where FCDO and ex-Dfid people cannot communicate on one system.’

Many people were desperate to get help after the Taliban took control of Kabul, in August.

Ex-civil servant Raphael Marshall revealed in an astonishing testimony to MPs yesterday how some staff were unable to access to emails from Afghans pleading to be airlifted to security

Raphael Marshall, an ex-civil servant, revealed yesterday in an amazing testimony before MPs how staff couldn’t access emails from Afghans and pleaded for security.

Afghans struggle to reach the foreign forces to show their credentials to flee the country outside the Hamid Karzai International Airport, in Kabul, Afghanistan, 26 August 2021

Afghans fight to access the foreign forces in order to provide proof of their citizenship to flee Afghanistan.

More than 15,000 Afghans and British citizens were airlifted to safety by the UK during a one-week operation. Many were not able to make it on the last mercy flight, which left August 28.

In written evidence to the Commons foreign affairs committee, Mr Marshall revealed that on one afternoon halfway through the two-week evacuation effort, he was the only person processing a flood of emails coming to the ‘special cases’ team in the Foreign Office.

This team examined claims made by those who were at greatest risk due to links with the UK. They included Afghan soldiers, politicians and journalists as well civil servants, activists, aid workers, judges, and civil officials.

Mr Marshall said there were usually over 5,000 unread messages in the inbox at any given moment, with desperate subject lines such as, ‘please save my children’.

The Foreign Office's top civil servant, Permanent-under secretary Sir Philip Barton, giving evidence on the evacuation from Afghanistan to MPs sitting on the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee, Tuesday December 7, 2021

Parliamentary-under Secretary Sir Philip Barton from the Foreign Office gave evidence about the evacuation of Afghanistan to members of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee. Tuesday, December 7, 2021