Dominic Raab rejects calls to quit over missed call to help translators fleeing Afghanistan

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Dominic Raab rejects calls to quit over missed call to help translators fleeing Afghanistan
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Dominic Raab was facing calls to resign or be sacked on Thursday after he failed to make a phone call while on holiday to help translators trying to flee Afghanistan.

The Foreign Secretary was accused of a “dereliction of duty” over his decision to delegate responsibilities while he was on a luxury break in Crete as Afghanistan was falling to the Taliban.

It comes as Defence Secretary Ben Wallace warned that the Taliban’s advance could “inspire” terrorists and the UK will have to “gear up, tool up”.

Mr Wallace defended his colleague, saying that a phone call from Mr Raab would not have made “any difference whatsoever” given the Afghan government was “melting away quicker than ice”.

Dominic Raab, asked if he was going to resign as Foreign Secretary, told reporters in Downing Street on Thursday: "No."

Mr Raab was allegedly “unavailable” when officials in his department suggested last Friday that he “urgently” call Afghan foreign minister Hanif Atmar, according to the Daily Mail.

It said the Afghan foreign ministry then refused to arrange a call with a junior minister, pushing it back to the next day.

Asked about Mr Raab’s failure to make the call, the Foreign Office said on Wednesday night: “The Foreign Secretary was engaged on a range of other calls and this one was delegated to another minister.”

Labour’s shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy MP, called for Mr Raab to go and said: “How can Boris Johnson allow the Foreign Secretary to continue in his role after yet another catastrophic failure of judgement?

“If Dominic Raab doesn’t have the decency to resign, the PM must show a shred of leadership and sack him.”

Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds described it as a “dereliction of duty”, while Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “Who wouldn’t make a phone call if they were told it could save somebody’s life?”

Mr Wallace stressed that the major concern last Friday was over Kabul airport staying open so they could airlift British nationals and Afghan allies out.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “You can speculate whether the phone call should or shouldn’t have been made, but it wouldn’t have been a blind bit of difference.”

The Liberal Democrats also said Mr Raab should resign and if he did not, the Prime Minister should “sack him”.

A former translator, a British citizen who gave his name as Rafi, 35, accused Mr Raab of “failing” to provide protection for the families of interpreters in Afghanistan.

He said: “If he didn’t make the call, I’m shocked. How could somebody do something like that in this chaotic situation? The interpreters and their families could be killed at any time.”

Mr Raab was said to have been staying at the five-star Amirandes Hotel which describes itself as a “boutique resort”. Earlier this week Mr Raab insisted he was “engaged in Cobra” and talking to his foreign counterparts, leaving the Greek island as soon as the situation deteriorated and demanded it.

It comes as the Taliban urged people to leave Kabul airport after 12 people were killed there since Sunday.

They died in and around the airport either as a result of gunshots or a stampede, Taliban and Nato officials said.

There were further scenes of chaos around Kabul airport, with reports of desperate women “throwing their babies over the razor wire”, asking the soldiers to take them.

Mr Wallace stressed if children were being taken by British troops it was because their families were also being removed from the country as well.

He also said the UK was using “every space possible” on its evacuation flights leaving Afghanistan.

Reports have suggested evacuation flights to other countries had left Kabul with only a handful of people on board. But Mr Wallace told Times Radio: “Our people are getting through, we haven’t sent a single empty plane home.

“The key here is when we have a plane, if we have a single empty seat, we will offer it to other nations.

“We’ve taken out interpreters who work for Nato, for example, we’ve taken out fellow European or other countries... we took some Japanese people out recently who were in need.”

Mr Wallace justified the last 20 years in Afghanistan as being about “foiling plots” but admitted that Al Qaeda will potentially look at the situation now as an “opportunity”.

He said failed states can lead to an “explosion of extremism” and warned that Islamists around the world will see what has happened as a “victory” that will “inspire other terrorists”.

He told Today: “I don’t think anyone’s denied that Al Qaeda is potentially going to look on this as an opportunity.”

Mr Raab is due to speak with fellow G7 ministers on Thursday to discuss international co-operation before leaders of the group hold a virtual meeting next week.

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