FACT CHECK: Viral Rumor Claims Acting Ambassador To Afghanistan Ross Wilson Evacuated From The Country ‘Last Weekend’
A post shared on Facebook claims acting U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ross Wilson had fled the country by Aug. 16, whereas British Ambassador Laurie Bristow remained there.
While the post does correctly state that Bristow remained in Afghanistan, its claim about Wilson leaving the country is inaccurate. Wilson relocated to Kabul’s airport on Aug. 15 and has posted photos showing him in the country as of Aug. 22.
The claim that Wilson, who became the U.S. chargé d’affaires to Afghanistan in 2020, fled the country as the Taliban took it over started circulating early last week. The Taliban seized the Afghan capital of Kabul on Aug. 15, the day before the Facebook post made the claim.
“The acting US Ambassador to Afghanistan fled the country last weekend,” the Facebook post alleges. “Britain’s ambassador is still in Kabul helping his nation’s citizens get out. British diplomats full of contempt for lack of coordination by US govt.” (RELATED: No, This Video Does Not Show The People Of Kabul Welcoming The Taliban Into The City)
But, contrary to the Aug. 16 post’s claim, Wilson had not fled the country “last weekend.” A spokesperson for the State Department said late Aug. 15 that the U.S. Embassy in Kabul had been evacuated, and its staff – including Wilson – had relocated to the city’s Hamid Karzai International Airport, USA Today reported. Wilson tweeted on Aug. 17 that he and embassy staff were still in Kabul assisting U.S. citizens and Afghans, correcting rumors to the contrary.
Contrary to false reports, @USEmbassyKabul staff & I remain in #Kabul working hard to help 1000s of U.S. citizens and vulnerable Afghans & continuing engagement here. Our commitment to the Afghan people endures.
— Chargé d’Affaires Ross Wilson (@USAmbKabul) August 17, 2021
He also tweeted a photo of himself at the Kabul airport on Aug. 22, saying in part, “This morning, I was able to wish American citizens well and ensure their safe departure from #Afghanistan.” On the same day, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul’s Twitter account posted photos of him touring the airport to observe State and Defense Department relocation efforts.
This morning, I was able to wish American citizens well and ensure their safe departure from #Afghanistan. Thank you to our @DeptofDefense colleagues for their support and assistance. pic.twitter.com/bWNS059K25
— Chargé d’Affaires Ross Wilson (@USAmbKabul) August 22, 2021
— U.S. Embassy Kabul (@USEmbassyKabul) August 22, 2021
Bristow, the U.K.’s ambassador to Afghanistan, remained in Afghanistan as of Aug. 23, according to a tweet from the U.K. Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. The previous day, Bristow posted a video of himself speaking from the Evacuation Handling Center in Kabul.
AFGHANISTAN UPDATE: we’ve further reinforced our team of staff in Kabul airport.
This brings the total FCDO staff currently in Kabul to 19, including Ambassador @Laurie_Bristow.
Alongside UK military, these staff are working round the clock to support evacuations in Kabul. pic.twitter.com/OJjD1PYbx0
— Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (@FCDOGovUK) August 23, 2021
Watch my update on the UK evacuation effort, which is gathering pace. Huge efforts from our soldiers, diplomats, border force colleagues, and all who are supporting us back in the UK. pic.twitter.com/qEj4gB1omz
— Laurie Bristow (@laurie_bristow) August 22, 2021
Some U.K. politicians publicly criticized the U.S.’s conduct in withdrawing from Afghanistan in a recent meeting of Parliament, according to The New York Times. British Defense Minister Ben Wallace also criticized the withdrawal in an interview with Sky News.