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IT fiasco that hampered email pleas for help during evacuation of Kabul STILL isn’t fixed

IT fiasco that hampered email pleas for help during evacuation of Kabul STILL isn’t fixed, second whistleblower reveals

  • IT farce meant Foreign Office staff couldn’t read emails from desperate Afghans
  • Ex-civil servant Raphael Marshall made revelations in testimony to MPs, saying some staff were unable to access emails from Afghans pleading for rescue
  • Now a second whistleblower has revealed that the issue still hasn’t been fixed


The Whitehall IT farce that prevented some Foreign Office staff reading emails from desperate Afghans has still not been fixed, a new whistleblower has revealed.

During the emergency airlift from Kabul, communications between officials in different parts of The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) were restricted because they were using separate computer systems.

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. 

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

Now an employee still working in the department has told how the problem has not been resolved following the merger of the Foreign Office and the Department for International Development (Dfid).

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 are not compatible with each other.

‘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.’

After the Taliban seized control of Kabul in August, thousands of desperate people appealed to the British government to be rescued.

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

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

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 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

In an operation lasting a fortnight, more than 15,000 British and Afghans citizens were airlifted by the UK. But many were left behind when the final mercy flight left on 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.

The team looked at 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.

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

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

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