Honors to government officials who assisted in the evacuation from Afghanistan


Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan

Six British government officials who were on the ground during the evacuation from Afghanistan have been awarded for their service in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.

Dr Martin Longden, former Chargé d’Affaires of the British Mission to Afghanistan in Doha, has been made a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George for his services to British foreign policy, while five others have been named OBE.

The announcement comes a week after MPs said Afghan allies and British soldiers were ‘completely disappointed by profound failures of leadership’ in government during the evacuation of Kabul in August last year .

A scathing report by the all-party Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) concluded that the withdrawal was a “disaster” and a “betrayal” of British allies that will damage UK interests for years to come.

They criticized the failure of then Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and senior civil servant Sir Philip Barton to return from vacation when Kabul fell, which they said marked a “fundamental lack of seriousness, influence or leadership”.

But MPs went out of their way to praise the work of staff on the ground during Operation Pitting, saying they ‘implemented a chaotic policy to the best of their abilities’.

Dr Longden was sent to Afghanistan in August 2021 to lead the rapid deployment team at Kabul airport as the Taliban took over.

Two weeks later, it was announced that he would temporarily lead the UK’s new mission to the country in Doha, Qatar. He has since left the role, with his Twitter profile saying he is “preparing for my next diplomatic assignment”.

Katrina Johnson, former Consul General at the Embassy in Kabul, was also awarded for her services to British foreign policy and British nationals abroad. She was appointed OBE.

Others to receive the honor for services of the same description include Alexander Pinfield, who served as Britain’s Deputy Ambassador to Afghanistan from April to October 2021; and Gemma Paolucci, former head of the counterterrorism team at the embassy.

Andrew McCoubrey, who was previously Director of Development, and Jason Oliver, former Senior Overseas Security Officer, were also appointed OBEs in part for services to British nationals abroad.

Additionally, Mr. McCoubrey’s work in international development was recognized, while Mr. Oliver was recognized for his contribution to security.

None of the government employees honored in Wednesday’s honors list were named in the CAF report.

However, the committee called on Sir Philip to consider his stance on a ‘determination to avoid digging up the facts’ when investigating the government’s policy in Afghanistan.

On Wednesday, the Permanent Under-Secretary of the Foreign Office congratulated those honored and thanked them “for their hard work and years of service”.

“The UK’s impact in the world depends on exceptional people like those being recognized this year for the Queen’s birthday,” he said.

“I am grateful for their outstanding contribution.”

A Foreign Office spokesperson said: ‘We are proud of the staff who worked tirelessly on the ground during the evacuation from Afghanistan, helping over 15,000 people to leave the country in what has was the largest such operation in a generation.

“They have deservedly received honors for their public service.”

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