UK ‘failed to learn lessons from Afghanistan’ in evacuating Brits from Sudan

The UK Foreign Office has been slammed for not having learned lessons of evacuation from the Afghanistan debacle in 2021, after British citizens in Sudan accused their government of not communicating with them.

Early Monday, Alicia Kearns, the chair of the UK’s foreign affairs select committee said in an interview with the BBC’s Radio 4 that an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 British nationals are in Sudan, of whom at least 1,000 have asked for help to leave.

Kearns said if the UK decided it could not attempt to rescue the remaining nationals, it needed to communicate that decision to them so that they were not left waiting for an operation that would not happen.

“We have a moral obligation to tell British nationals as soon as possible that this is the judgment that has been made, because they then need to make their own decisions,” she said.

She agreed it was unacceptable that British nationals who had registered with the Foreign Office had received just two computer-generated messages in the past week.

“That would suggest no lessons have been learned from Afghanistan and I have urged the government to make sure they are communicating regularly with British nationals. The reality is that, unlike other countries, we have thousands [of nationals in Sudan] so perhaps sometimes phoning around is terribly difficult.”

The UK airlifted its diplomats out of Sudan on Sunday, leaving British citizens behind awaiting further instructions.


Despite heavy fighting in Khartoum, the two sides eased fighting on Sunday enough for a stream of international military aircraft to land in the Khartoum area and extract foreign citizens.

The exodus began with American special forces swooping in and out of Khartoum in helicopters early Sunday to evacuate the U.S. Embassy personnel.

France brought out nearly 400 people, including citizens from 28 countries, on four flights to the nearby Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti, two of them overnight. A Dutch air force C-130 Hercules flew out of Sudan to Jordan in the early hours of Monday carrying evacuees of various nationalities, including Dutch, on board.

Germany meanwhile has so far conducted three flights out of Sudan, bringing more than 300 people out to Jordan.

Italy, Spain, Jordan and Greece also brought out several hundred more people, including their own citizens.

While the US has said a co-ordinated evacuation to pull out Americans was too dangerous, other countries have managed to get hundreds of their citizens to safety.

Some countries have however chosen the overland route to extract their citizens, including Japan. Tokyo organized for its nationals to be transported overland to Djibouti, where it has military aircraft waiting. Germany and France have also said they are willing to conduct more flights if necessary.