TORY Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab appeared before MPs on the Foreign Affairs Committee yesterday, where he was questioned about the end of the UK’s role in the US-led bombing, invasion and occupation of Afghanistan lasting 20-years.
Raab brushed aside different members of the committee’s repeated calls for him to resign.
When the final UK troops left Kabul at the weekend, Raab was on holiday as the Taliban approached Kabul. He has said ‘with hindsight’ he would not have been in Greece.
While being grilled, Raab insisted that the government did not foresee the rapid victory of the Taliban coming. Raab said: ‘My point is this: The central assessment that we were operating to, and it was certainly mapped out by the JIG (Joint Intelligence Group) and by the military, was that the most likely central proposition was that given the troop withdrawal at the end of August, you would see a steady deterioration from that point. It was unlikely that Kabul would fall this year.
‘… Just to be clear that is something that was widely shared, that view by our NATO allies.’
Tory MP and chair of the committee Tom Tugendhat then read out the Defence Secretaries Principle Risk Report for 22 July 2021: ‘Peace talks have stalled and the NATO withdrawal has led to rapid Taliban advances. This could lead to fall of cities, the collapse of security forces, Taliban return to power, mass displacement and significant humanitarian need. The embassy may need to close if security deteriorates.’
Raab said: ‘The central assessment remained that the deterioration would be incremental. We started planning in June for the contingency of a full of evacuation and therefore a full drawdown of the embassy.
‘The timing of all of this was very much coordinated with our NATO allies.’
Labour’s Chris Bryant then accused the government of not putting enough effort into contingency planning in case Kabul fell to the Taliban quicker than most people expected.
Raab rejected this, adding that applications for Afghans who helped the UK to apply for resettlement under the so-called ARAP (Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy) scheme were ‘speeded up’ from April onwards.
Rabb was then questioned on numbers of UK residents remaining in Afghanistan. He admitted that he can’t say with ‘precision’ how many UK nationals are left in the country, but somewhere in ‘the low hundreds’.
Bryant asked Raab if he was ‘already on holiday on 11 August?’
Raab said he has given a ‘full statement’ on his holiday, and will not get into a ‘fishing expedition’ over the details of his time away.