Labour is demanding details about the Government’s handling of the situation in Afghanistan and the Foreign Secretary being away on holiday while Kabul was taken over by the Taliban.
Dominic Raab has rejected calls from opposition parties for him to resign, after reports that he was “unavailable” when officials in his department suggested he “urgently” call Afghan foreign minister Hanif Atmar on Friday – two days before the Taliban marched on Kabul – to arrange help for Afghans who had supported British troops.
The Daily Mail added that the Afghan foreign ministry then refused to arrange a call with a junior minister, pushing it back to the next day.
Mr Raab was holidaying on the Greek island of Crete.
Labour said there was an “unforgiveable failure of leadership” from Mr Raab and Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and set out a list of 18 urgent questions for the Foreign Secretary to answer about his holiday and his department’s handling of the crisis.
The party 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 intelligence operations requiring urgent approval in his absence.
Dominic Raab 👇
❌ Went on holiday when he knew Afghanistan situation was dire❌ Refused to get off his sun lounger to save people's lives
— The Labour Party (@UKLabour) August 19, 2021
Labour 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.
“While British troops were flying out to save lives in Afghanistan, Dominic Raab refused to cut short his summer holiday. The Government’s negligence will cost lives.”
Labour, the SNP, the Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru called for Mr Raab to either quit or be sacked by Mr Johnson.
Mr Raab, asked if would resign as Foreign Secretary, told reporters in Downing Street on Thursday: “No.”
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace earlier said the suggested phone call from Mr Raab to his Afghan counterpart would not have made “any difference whatsoever” given the Afghan government was “melting away quicker than ice”.
Mr Raab earlier this week insisted he was “engaged in Cobra, talking to foreign counterparts, directly speaking to the head of our team here in London, I was doing that on an hour-by-hour basis and, of course, I left as soon as the situation deteriorated and demanded it”.
He said “everyone was caught off-guard by the pace, scale of the Taliban takeover”, and “in retrospect” he would not have gone on holiday if he had known what would unfold in Afghanistan while he was away.
The PA news agency has contacted Downing Street and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office for comment.