Boris Johnson has come under fire for what social media users have slammed as a “shockingly blasé” appearance at a UK Foreign Office crisis centre for Afghans
evacuated from Kabul
The UK prime minister, accompanied by Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, greeted staff with a cheery “what’s happening?” and bumped elbows in traditional coronavirus pandemic fashion.
“Are you the guys who have been inundated with all the emails from everywhere in the world saying, ‘please help my son, brother, get out of Afghanistan?” Johnson asked the crisis workers.
Raab chimed in, asking whether the crowd of Afghans at Kabul Airport had “thinned out yet” due to the bombing attack that took place on Thursday.
“I thought it was extraordinary that they all stayed [after the bombing]”, Raab said, in reference to the locals that were still hoping to be airlifted out of the war-torn country now run by the Taliban*.
“Amazing, amazing, yes”, responded Johnson.
The awkward body language and rambling remarks of the gaffe-prone British prime minister invited comparisons to the comedy series “The Thick of It” among netizens on Twitter. The British television series that ran from 2005 until 2012 satirises the inner workings of the UK government.
Johnson and Raab made the visit on Friday, with BBC’s “Newsnight” subsequently broadcasting clips from it.
The visit came just a day after the deadly
near the international airport, which has been the scene of a massive airlift effort as the US and other Western countries
raced to evacuate
their citizens and allies out of Afghanistan. Two British nationals
died in the blasts
, besides 13 US troops and some 170 civilians.
Johnson’s visit drew heavy criticism online, with Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey quoted by The Independent as saying:
“These flippant remarks show Boris Johnson in his true light, uncaring and unable to master the detail during this awful crisis”.
Netizens were left shocked at the display, which glaringly lacked “compassion or culpability”.
On Saturday evening, the UK’s evacuation effort in Kabul drew to an end after the last all-civilian flight departed.
“The final flight carrying UK Armed Forces personnel has left Kabul”, Britain’s Ministry of Defence said.
Remaining flights will be airlifting British troops and some Afghans to the UK. However, Afghan citizens eligible for relocation who had not already entered Kabul Airport would not be flown out.
REUTERS / Ben Shread/UK MOD Crown copyright 2021/Handout
“We should be proud of our armed forces, welcoming to those coming for a better life and sad for those left behind”, said Defence Minister Ben Wallace.
On Friday, he indicated that between 800 and 1,100 Afghans who had worked with British forces and were eligible for resettlement would not be evacuated, and vowed to help them if they could leave by land.
The British forces have airlifted some 14,000 people out of Kabul in the past two weeks. President Joe Biden had set a 31 August deadline for the US military to leave Afghanistan, with allied forces, including Britain, opting to leave before that cutoff date.
*The Taliban and Daesh-K are terrorist groups outlawed in Russia and many other countries.