In February 2020 the US administration of Donald Trump agreed the withdrawal of US troops with the Taliban by May 2021, without including the Afghan government in the deal. One would presume at that point there was some entity within the UK government that was responsible for managing the UK withdrawal based on this timescale. This would include evacuating UK citizens and those Afghans who were ensured protection in return for working with the UK forces, and ensuring sensitive documents at the embassy are not available to hostile entities.

It seems that there were problems with this operation, despite the timescale being extended significantly by Joe Biden. The Freedom of Information Act 2000 allows individuals to request information held by public authorities to allow voters to make informed decisions within the democratic process. Gov.uk lists 579 entities to whom one can make a FoI request. Which would be the appropriate entity to make a request for information about the planning and implementation of this withdrawal, in particular the early stages after the initial decision to withdraw?

I am particularly interested in the United Kingdom, but other countries that are in the same position would also be interesting.

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    @prata Note that is a United States government site, I am in the UK. I have had a search around the UK equivalent of that site and it is not at all clear to whom such a request should be directed.
    – Dave
    Aug 31, 2021 at 11:47
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    The link in your original (now deleted) comment was the to the US. The first "DO" at the ico site is "Find out who to send your request to."
    – Dave
    Aug 31, 2021 at 11:51
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    @costrom that is particular to the US. They're often just called "freedom of information requests" elsewhere
    – llama
    Aug 31, 2021 at 21:35
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    @costrom In the UK, they are more commonly known as FOI requests. The government uses that acronym for example.
    – JBentley
    Sep 1, 2021 at 10:00
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    @TCooper it's going to have the same answer, almost certainly denied due to national security exemptions.
    – eps
    Sep 2, 2021 at 18:59

2 Answers 2


Depending on the exact nature of the information you're after, the relevant body is most likely to be the Ministry of Defence, or failing that, the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office.

However, when making your request, note Part II of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 which lists information exempt from FoI requests - particularly sections 23; Information supplied by, or relating to, bodies dealing with security matters, 24; National security, 26; Defence, and 27; International relations.


To add to CDJB's answer, when making your request you can also ask that in the event that the public body does not hold the information, they advise you which other public body they believe might hold it.

Section 16 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 provides:

16 Duty to provide advice and assistance.

(1) It shall be the duty of a public authority to provide advice and assistance, so far as it would be reasonable to expect the authority to do so, to persons who propose to make, or have made, requests for information to it.

(2) Any public authority which, in relation to the provision of advice or assistance in any case, conforms with the code of practice under section 45 is to be taken to comply with the duty imposed by subsection (1) in relation to that case.

Paragraphs 2.11 and 2.12 of the code of practice referred to in section 16(2) above states:

2.11 There will be occasions when a public authority is not able to comply with a request (or to comply with it in full) because it does not hold the information requested.

2.12 In most cases where a public authority does not hold the information, but thinks that another public authority does, they should respond to the applicant to inform them that the requested information is not held by them, and that it may be held by another public authority. The public authority should, as best practice where they can, provide the contact details for the public authority they believe holds the requested information.

The code of practice is just guidance (pursuant to section 45(1) of the Act) but the duty to provide advice and assistance is statutory and given the wording of section 16(2) a public body will likely have to have a good reason for departing from the guidance.

Pursuant to section 50, you can make a complaint to the ICO to enforce a failure to provide advice and assistance in the same way that you can complain about a failure to respond to a FOI request.

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    I wouldn't put too much faith in that, since government is notorious for each group not knowing what the other groups are doing. Even when someone knows, it's often a matter of following a chain of people who know someone who knows someone else, etc.--which is probably out of the scope of reasonable assistance. Sep 2, 2021 at 14:46

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