The evacuation of British citizens out of civil-war-torn Sudan has been criticised as too late, too slow and too selective. But the government refuses any analogy with what happened in Afghanistan, even though there are a lot of similarities. The lack of preparedness, for instance. Or the choice to get diplomats out while leaving everyone else in the danger-zone, with instructions to contact an empty consulate for advice.
And when the Foreign Office declared the operation ”complete” only 1,888 "qualifying Brits” had actually been airlifted out, leaving 6,000 behind...
Of course there are differences with the botched Afghan airlift, linked both to recent history and the more distant past. Sudan was a British colony, “granted"(!) independence in 1953, whereas the occupation of Afghanistan in 2001 followed a joint invasion with the US as a supposedly retaliatory act.
Today Sudan has slipped back into the state of civil war and military dictatorship which its unarmed population tried to end for good in 2018, when it took to the streets. At the time, their numbers overwhelmed the repressive lslamist regime of Omar Bashir. But in the end, as the situation today shows, this wasn't enough, nor did they have the necessary organisation within their ranks to prevent the military from returning to power. And of course the rival military factions have rival backers: the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey and Qatar, offering plenty of weapons.
What was striking about the evacuations was the separate and unco-ordinated action of the different states involved. How do British ministers explain, for instance, that the French evacuation of Khartoum was more efficient, even though it was a boots-on-the-ground operation, in the absence of a proper cease-fire? And why couldn't all countries have joined forces to help more of those in need? ls that something to do with a broken "Union"?
What ministers will not want to explain however, is why they are not accepting Sudanese refugees into this country, on the same and equal basis as the refugees they accept from Ukraine.