Action could put to the test ministers’ assertions that the swift takeover of Afghanistan was unforeseen
Parliament’s security committee could reportedly request a secret analysis from the intelligence community over the rapid fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban insurgency.
It comes amid chaotic scenes at Hamid Karzai international airport, with the UK government facing “formidable” challenges in the evacuation and airlift of British nationals and Afghans granted visas from the region.
According to The Guardian, sources close to the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC), which meets in private and can demand documents from the security services, is “extremely likely” to request to see assessment on Afghanistan.
The parliamentary body is responsible for overseeing the UK’s intelligence committee — covering the policies and operations of key bodies such as MI5, MI6 and GCHQ.
The move could put to the test ministers’ assertions that the swift takeover the Afghan capital, Kabul, last weekend was not foreseen, including Dominic Raab’s suggestion this week “no one” saw it coming.
The foreign secretary claimed governments across the world were “surprised” and “caught off-guard” by the scale and pace of the Taliban’s advance and the downfall of the Afghan government and forces.
Highlighting the issue of intelligence earlier this week during an emergency Commons debate, the former prime minister Theresa May asked Boris Johnson: “Was our intelligence really so poor?
“Was our understanding of the Afghan government so weak?” she enquired. “Was our knowledge of the position on the ground so inadequate?”
However, The Guardian added a decision of any probe by the ISC is not expected until its nine MPs convene in October and it does not have the remit to investigate on-going operations.
Chair of the committee Julian Lewis told a Commons emergency debate on Afghanistan on Wednesday he was “not in a position” to comment on the activities that the intelligence committee “might or might not agree to do”.
His comments came in response to a question from the Tory MP Mark Harper, who asked whether the Intelligence and Security Committee had any plans to investigate “intelligence failures” in the country. Mr Lewis added the question was “pertinent”.
Speaking earlier this week, the former chair of the committee, Dominic Grieve, suggested an investigation by the ISC would be a “useful exercise”, but warned it was uncertain what conclusions the body could publish
“The prime minister is on record as saying there has been no intelligence failure,” he said. “He says we knew this was a possibility, even if the rapidity of collapse was quicker than anticipated. Therefore for the ISC to independently confirm the prime minister is correct about this and how this was factored into the decision-making of government would be very interesting to know about.”
The ISC have been contacted by The Independent for comment.