Missed call crisis deepens for Dominic Raab

·4-min read
Missed call crisis deepens for Dominic Raab

Dominic Raab was under fresh pressure on Friday after it emerged a phone call requested by his officials to help interpreters flee Afghanistan was not made.

The Foreign Secretary is fighting for his job after a series of revelations surrounding his holiday in Crete as Afghanistan slid into chaos.

Tory MPs have also rounded on the Cabinet minister after he allegedly failed to intervene to help airlift translators out of Afghanistan.

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.

It was initially said that the call was then delegated to a junior minister but it has now emerged the call never took place.

The Foreign Office was forced to admit on Friday it “was not possible to arrange a call before the Afghan government collapsed”. It has also emerged that the three mandarins running the departments overseeing the chaotic evacuation are all on holiday.

Permanent secretary of the Foreign Office Sir Philip Barton, the Home Office’s Matthew Rycroft and the Ministry of Defence’s David Williams are all on leave, according to the Times.

Armed forces minister James Heappey was forced to defend Mr Raab on Friday morning, saying people at all levels in Government were “working their backsides off” to evacuate people.

He told Sky News: “No one phone call would have been decisive in changing the trajectory — either for the collapse of the Afghan government or indeed the acceleration of the airlift.”

Labour, the Liberal Democrats and SNP have all called on the Foreign Secretary to resign or be sacked.

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.”

Tory peer Lord Naseby highlighted the decision of Lord Carrington to resign as foreign secretary over the Argentinian invasion of the Falklands, and said Mr Raab should “think about” what has happened with Afghanistan.

The former deputy speaker in the Commons stressed he was not asking Mr Raab to resign, but added: “The decision is for him, not anyone else.”

It comes amid chaotic scenes in the Afghan capital of Kabul as western states scramble to get their nationals and Afghan allies out of the country.

There are also heightened fears more terror attacks will be carried out against the West if the Taliban establishes training camps across Afghanistan.

Former boss of MI5 Lord Evans told the BBC’s Today: “If they get the opportunity to put down infrastructure to train and to operate, then that will pose a threat to the West more widely. There’s also the psychological effect of the inspiration that some people will draw from the failure of Western power.” He added: “It probably does mean an increase in threat over the coming months and years.”

Mr Heappey, an Afghan veteran, wore his Rifles tie for his TV appearances on Friday, saying “it makes me sick” that the Taliban were part of the solution in Afghanistan. Asked if he saw the Taliban as friends or enemies, he told LBC’s Nick Ferrari: “I saw them as the most bitter of enemies and that was one of the hardest six months of my life.”

However, he said he knew “deep down” the Taliban would always have to be part of the solution in Afghanistan.

On reports contract staff who protected the British embassy were receiving no protection, Mr Heappey said: “If you’re referring to the GardaWorld staff who protect the embassy, I can tell you ... we’ll be moving them out later today.”

Foreign Secretary Mr Raab issued a statement on Friday afternoon, saying: “The whole of Government has been working tirelessly over the last week to help as many people evacuate from Afghanistan as possible. The UK Government’s overriding priority has been to secure Kabul airport so that flights can leave.

“On Friday afternoon, 13 August, advice was put to my Private Office, around 6pm Afghan time, recommending a call to the Afghan Foreign Minister. This was quickly overtaken by events. The call was delegated to a Minister of State because I was prioritising security and capacity at the airport on the direct advice of the Director and the Director General overseeing the crisis response. In any event, the Afghan Foreign Minister agreed to take the call, but was unable to because of the rapidly deteriorating situation.

“The Government’s approach to prioritise security at the airport was the right one. As a result, 204 UK nationals and their families, Afghan staff and other countries citizens were evacuated on the morning of Monday 16 August. Since then, 1,635 have been evacuated. I pay tribute to the excellent team we have in place, and we continue to prioritise what is required to evacuate people to the UK safely.”

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