Dominic Raab has been urged to “find a backbone and resign” after MPs criticised his handling of the Afghanistan crisis.
Labour told the foreign secretary the coordination between his department and the Ministry of Defence to assist people seeking to flee Afghanistan is “still appalling” despite the efforts of some “very hardworking” civil servants.
The SNP’s Stephen Flynn (Aberdeen South) went a step further when asking why Raab went on holiday to Crete despite concerns being raised in July over the future of Afghanistan. He added:
When’s he going to find a backbone and resign?
He referred to the risk report that the management board received in July, it’s a standard monthly report, it goes to senior officials. It didn’t contain any novel or new intelligence assessment.
Read on...Support us and go ad-free
What the July document made clear was that our central planning assumption at the time was the peace process in Afghanistan would probably run for a further six months.
So we followed all that advice while at the same time preparing our contingency plans for the evacuation.
The Taliban retook control of nearly all of Afghanistan by mid-August.
“Lottery of life and death”
Raab repeatedly stressed the UK will not recognise the Taliban as the government of Afghanistan and noted his “scepticism is quite deep” about their assurances. But he told MPs:
There is some evidence, in relation to the engagement we had on the ground in relation to the airport, it is possible to have a rational, constructive engagement and be able to test whether they will keep their word.
Labour’s Harriet Harman (Camberwell and Peckham) earlier warned that the Afghan citizens’ resettlement scheme “is going to end up as a lottery of life and death”. She asked about the number of Afghan citizens “who want and need to flee here from Afghanistan and have already asked”. Harman said:
How will the Government in practice decide between those who will be the lucky 5,000 and be allowed to come here and those who, though meeting the criteria, will because of the 5,000 cap be refused and face a terrible fate at the hands of the Taliban?
I think the reality is unless they increase the 5,000 cap, the Afghan citizens’ resettlement scheme is going to end up as a lottery of life and death.
I think she’s right to say frankly even if we doubled or tripled the quota, the number of people fleeing Afghanistan is going to outstrip what the UK would be able to take alone.
Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy said:
The coordination between the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence, despite some very hardworking civil servants on the ground who are working round the clock, is still appalling.
She also asked about the number of calls handled by the crisis centre. The foreign secretary said:
Since August 11, (the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office crisis centre) has handled more than 44,000 calls. We surged 45 members of FCDO staff and 35 staff from other departments.
Since August 19, we have answered well over 90% – 93% – of the total number received, and every day since the 24th, our call handlers have answered more than 94% of the calls that were made.
And just to give the honourable lady a sense, since August 20 average wait times have been less than a minute.
Raab also told MPs there is “clearly a difference” between the Taliban and terrorist groups such as Isis-K – the affiliate of the so-called Islamic State in Afghanistan – and al-Qaeda.
Indeed, there is suspicion that the Abbey Gate attack from Isis-K, that part of the intention was to target the Taliban.
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?