Dominic Raab has defended his decision not to phone Afghanistan’ Foreign Minister as the Taliban descended on Kabul on Friday, insisting he was focused on other elements of the government response to the crisis in the region.
Amid mounting criticism over the speed of his response to the Taliban’s takeover, the foreign secretary said in a statement on Friday the government has been “working tirelessly” to help people flee Afghanistan. Foreign Secretary in his statement defended his role in the UK response to the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan amid growing calls for him to quit.
“On Friday afternoon, 13 August, advice was put to my private office (around 6pm Afghan time) recommending a call to the Afghan foreign minister. This was quickly overtaken by events,” it reads.
“The call was delegated to a minister of state because I was prioritising security and capacity at the airport on the direct advice of the director and the director general overseeing the crisis response.
“In any event, the Afghan foreign minister agreed to take the call, but was unable to because of the rapidly deteriorating situation.
Labour and other opposition parties have said Raab must step down or be sacked by Boris Johnson after The Mail reported that last Friday he failed to make a crucial phone call to Afghanistan’s foreign minister Hanif Atmar when advised to do so by Foreign Office officials.
Raab, who was on holiday in Crete at the time, today claimed he did not contact Atmar to discuss evacuating interpreters from Afghanistan because the advice to do so was “quickly overtaken by events.”
Instead, Raab claims, he focused on “prioritising security and capacity at the airport on the direct advice of the Director and the Director General overseeing the crisis response.”
It has since emerged that the call did not happen even after it was delegated to a junior minister. This was due to the “rapidly deteriorating situation” in Afghanistan, Raab said in his statement.
The government is likely to face questions today over why three of the country’s most senior civil servants, whose departments are all heavily involved in the UK mission to evacuate people from Afghanistan, are on holiday as the crisis continues to unfold, as reported by The Times.
Home Office Permanent Secretary Matthew. Foreign Office Permanent Secretary Philip Barton, and Ministry of Defence Permanent Secretary David Williams still haven’t returned from their holidays.