Ian Blackford slams Dominic Raab during Afghanistan debate
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The Foreign Secretary was on holiday on the Greek island of Crete as the Taliban took over Kabul on Sunday. Mr Raab rejected calls to resign on Thursday. He was reportedly “unavailable” when officials in his department suggested he “urgently” call Afghan foreign minister Hanif Atmar on August 13 – two days before the Taliban marched on Kabul – to arrange help for those who supported British troops.
A Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office spokesperson said: “Given the rapidly changing situation it was not possible to arrange a call before the Afghan government collapsed.”
Various Conservative politicians are angry about Mr Raab’s handling of the crisis.
One Conservative MP told the Guardian his position is “untenable” while another described the Foreign Secretary as “lacklustre.”
Another Tory MP told The Sun on Thursday night: “We need a Foreign Secretary who is out there batting for Britain, not dozing on a sun lounger when the chips are down.”
The Labour Party has set out a list of 18 urgent questions for Mr Raab to answer about his trip and his department’s handling of the crisis.
It is understood that the senior officials continued to work on Afghanistan while on leave, with the Whitehall departments running systems where there is another minister or an acting permanent secretary to cover periods of leave.
A Government spokesperson said: “Departments across Whitehall have been working intensively at all levels in the last few days and weeks on the situation in Afghanistan.
“Thanks to these efforts, we have relocated over 2,000 Afghans to the UK since June, evacuated over 400 British nationals and their families on RAF flights since Sunday and established one of the most generous asylum schemes in British history.”
Labour said it is requesting specifics on when Mr Raab was out of the country and on leave from official duties, if he received advice from officials on the advisability of leaving as the situation in Afghanistan deteriorated, if he attended a Cobra meeting on August 15, and if other ministers were authorised to approve those intelligence operations designated urgent in his absence.
The party also questioned the Prime Minister’s involvement, asking Mr Raab if he spoke with Mr Johnson while he was away, and if the PM gave permission for him to leave the country.
Labour’s shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy said: “For the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary to be on holiday during the biggest foreign policy crisis in a generation is an unforgivable failure of leadership.”
The Government have announced Britain will take up to 20,000 people from Afghanistan as part of its resettlement scheme.
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This includes 5,000 who will be accepted in the next 12 months.
On Thursday, Dominic Raab chaired a call with G7 foreign ministers to discuss the ongoing crisis.
Mr Raab said afterwards foreign ministers had agreed each will engage with partners” to try and secure an “inclusive political settlement” to provide humanitarian assistance and saves lives in Afghanistan and from terrorism.
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