Short-staffing, bureaucratic chaos, poor processes and failures of leadership meant that tens of thousands of Afghans in need of assistance were left to the mercy of the Taliban, testimony from Raphael Marshall, a Foreign Office whistleblower has alleged.
The 40-page written testimony – which is worth reading in full – directly blames Dominic Raab’s lack of grip, and Boris Johnson’s direct intervention on behalf of the British animal charity Nowzad for the failure to save people whose lives were actually at risk.
But it also depicts a state that lacks relevant expertise, was poorly led at an official level as well as a ministerial one, and lacked the basic capacity to fulfil its aim in evacuating at-risk Afghans.
That’s part of the story, too, in this week’s announcements on crime and antisocial behaviour: the government can and will make any number of bloodcurdling declarations about what it will do to the handful of criminals it can catch. But most crimes now go unsolved, even when they are comparatively simple and easy to do so, due to a lack of resources.
And it’s also part of our pandemic response: from the failure to move forward on either adequately ventilating most of the public realm to the fact that official advice to businesses is still long on measures like hand sanitiser (which is about as effective in slowing the spread of Covid-19 as wishing) and short on ones that work, like ventilation.
Across the piece, the bigger and undeniable reality is of a state that simply can’t do very much and that what it does do, it often does badly.