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UK foreign secretary resists calls to quit over Afghanistan

August 20, 2021

Dominic Raab is under pressure for failing to make a call with his Afghan counterpart while he was on holiday in Crete as the Taliban swept into Kabul. He returned to London only after the capital fell.

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab at a recent press conference
UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is under fire for not doing enough on AfghanistanImage: Ashraf Shazly/Getty Images/AFP

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on Friday continued to defy pressure for him to resign after not telephoning the Afghan foreign minister while on holiday in Crete.

Last Friday, Foreign office officials advised Raab to take a call from Afghan Foreign Minister Haneef Atmar during the rapid Taliban advance on Kabul.

Instead of taking the call himself, Raab passed it on to a junior minister. 

What are the accusations against Raab?

The main opposition party in the UK Parliament has accused Raab of choosing not to take a call with Afghan ministers to ensure Afghan translators were all brought out of the country before the Taliban took over Kabul.

The Labour Party said Raab's actions were "totally unacceptable" and he "should resign" in a tweet. 

"While the foreign secretary lay on a sun lounger, the Taliban advanced," said Labour's shadow foreign minister, Lisa Nandy.

"The foreign secretary should be ashamed and the prime minister has serious questions to answer over why he remains in the job."

Demonstrators, including former interpreters for the British Army in Afghanistan, hold placards as they protest opposite the Houses of Parliament in London,
Demonstrators urge the UK to help Afghan translators in KabulImage: Glyn KIRK / AFP

What did Raab say in his defense?

Raab called media reports "inaccurate" on Twitter and said Attmar could not take the call at all in a statement.

"The call was delegated to a minister of state because I was prioritizing security and capacity at the airport on the direct advice of the Director and the Director General overseeing the crisis response," said Raab.

"In any event, the Afghan foreign minister agreed to take the call, but was unable to because of the rapidly deteriorating situation," added the foreign secretary.

Some British media reports had earlier suggested that Attmar refused to speak to a more junior minister, which Raab disputed.

"The whole of government has been working tirelessly over the last week to help as many people evacuate from Afghanistan as possible," he added.

Raab said the decision to focus on airport security "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," he said.

The minister said British planes had evacuated 1,635 Afghans so far out of a total of 2,500 people the UK pledged to relocate on August 4.

jc/msh (AFP, Reuters, AP)