Honours for Government officials who helped with Afghanistan evacuation

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Six UK Government officials who were on the ground during the Afghanistan evacuation have been rewarded for their service in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.

Dr Martin Longden, formerly charge d’affaires of the UK Mission to Afghanistan in Doha, has been made Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George for services to British foreign policy, while five others have been made an OBE.

The announcement comes a week after MPs said Afghan allies and British soldiers were “utterly let down by deep failures of leadership” in Government during the evacuation from Kabul in August last year.

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

They criticised the failure of then-foreign secretary Dominic Raab, and top civil servant Sir Philip Barton, to return from holiday as Kabul fell, which they said marked a “fundamental lack of seriousness, grip or leadership”.

But the MPs went out of their way to praise the work of personnel on the ground during Operation Pitting, saying they “implemented a chaotic policy to the best of their ability”.

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

Two weeks later it was announced 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 posting”.

Katrina Johnson, former consul general at the embassy in Kabul, was also rewarded for services to British foreign policy and British nationals overseas. She has been made an OBE.

Others to receive the honour for services of the same description include Alexander Pinfield, who was Britain’s deputy ambassador to Afghanistan from April to October 2021; and Gemma Paolucci, former head of the counter terrorism team at the embassy.

Andrew McCoubrey, who previously served as development director, and Jason Oliver, formerly senior overseas security manager, were also made an OBE in part for services to British nationals overseas.

In addition, Mr McCoubrey’s work in international development was noted, while Mr Oliver was recognised for his contribution to security.

None of the Government workers rewarded in Wednesday’s honours list were named in the FAC report.

However the committee called for Sir Philip to consider his position over a “determination to avoid unearthing the facts” during its inquiry into Government policy on Afghanistan.

On Wednesday the Foreign Office permanent under-secretary congratulated those being honoured and thanked them “for their hard work and years of service”.

“The UK’s impact around the world depends on exceptional people like those recognised in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours,” he said.

“I am grateful for their outstanding contribution.”

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “We are proud of the staff who worked tirelessly on the ground during the evacuation of Afghanistan, helping over 15,000 people leave the country in what was the biggest operation of its kind in a generation.

“They have rightly received honours for their public service.”

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