With Lucy Marley Reporter

It saw amazing viral images as thousands fled their homes. But what really happened when the US and the UK left Afghanistan?

It saw amazing viral images as thousands fled their homes. But what really happened when the US and the UK left Afghanistan?
In summer 2021 there was a lot of news about Afghanistan - a country north of Pakistan and India that has seen wars and conflict for decades.
In August that year a group called the Taliban took over the country, including the capital city, Kabul.
This video of a plane evacuating people from the city at the time went viral and was seen by millions around the world.

Credit: @morkazemian

The Taliban had been fighting a long war against the Afghanistan government that was backed by Britain and America.
When the US and UK decided to take their troops out of Afghanistan the Taliban seized control.
Many people in Afghanistan were worried the Taliban would rule in the same way they had when they were last in power, 20 years ago. People did not have the vote, there were harsh laws, public executions, women were excluded from jobs and girls over 10 weren’t allowed to go to school.
Amnesty International UK said during this time, women and girls were discriminated against in many ways, for just the “‘crime’ of being born a girl.”

Sara Rahim left Afghanistan in summer last year

So when the Taliban took back power, countries around the world agreed to help and evacuate people. The situation in Kabul, particularly at the airport, was chaotic.
Thousands of Afghan people were evacuated from Kabul, and found safety all over the world. Lots of people arrived in the UK and nine months on, many are still living in hotels.


In the UK a big report has come out on the Afghan evacuation. It’s an investigation into what happened. Like did the government do enough for vulnerable people trying to leave?
Tom Tugenhat is an MP and expert on Afghanistan. He led the investigation, which took months and heard evidence from lots of people involved in the battle in the country and the evacuation.

Tom Tugendhat MP, Chair, Foreign Affairs Select Committee

The report has found four key things:
  • There was a “fundamental lack of planning, grip or leadership at the time of national emergency”
  • No clear line of command” within government with “untraceable and unaccountable” political action
  • “Total absence of plans” to evacuate Afghans who supported the UK, putting “lives at risk.”
  • Committee has lost confidence in Foreign Office’s top civil servant and urges him to consider his position


Taliban have been in power for nearly a year. Women have been discouraged from going to university and schools for older girls are not open. The country remains one of the poorest in the world and there is no voting.
And research carried out by Human Rights Watch and the Human Rights Institute at San Jose State University shows that the Taliban rule has had a “devastating” impact on Afghan Women and girls.
Halima Kazem-Stojanovic, one of the researchers of the report said: “Afghan women and girls are facing both the collapse of their rights and dreams and risks to their basic survival”
To read more here’s the link to the full Select Committee report.
And here’s our explainer on Afghanistan.