If the Taliban’s return to power turns out to be a defeat for the entire Western camp, it has been especially devastating for London, which led US support when it toppled the Islamic regime in Afghanistan 20 years ago.
Dominic Raab, who chose to stay on vacation in Crete when Kabul fell to the Taliban, was particularly targeted. Once again cooking up the topic, he evaded questions, only admitting that “in hindsight, he wouldn’t have left.”
In response to a question by the Foreign Affairs Committee, he sought to prove his involvement, and announced that he would head “to the region” after the hearing.
The minister said the government considered it “unlikely” that Kabul would fall in 2021 and had begun preparations for possible evacuations in June.
If Prime Minister Boris Johnson has renewed his faith in Mr Raab, the press is skeptical about his retention in office, especially as he appears to blame the military for certain mistakes.
His services were also accused of amateurishness when the press revealed that documents identifying Afghan collaborators had been left on the floor of the evacuated Kabul embassy, or that thousands of emails related to the evacuations remained unanswered.
The UK has evacuated more than 15,000 people from Afghanistan, but, by its own admission, it has failed to get several hundred eligible Afghans out to arrange the reception – as many as 1,100, according to Defense Secretary Ben Wallace.
Dominic Raab said that among them were Afghan guards from the British embassy in Kabul who were taken by bus to the airport but “were not allowed to enter the airport”.
Discussions with the Taliban
In a sometimes tense question-and-answer session, the minister refused to give exact figures on how many Britons or Afghans eligible for UK asylum remain in Afghanistan, much to the frustration of MEPs.
To negotiate “free passage” for its citizens and allies, the government announced that it had opened talks with the Taliban.
The British Special Representative for the Afghan Transition, Simon Gass, traveled to Doha “and met with senior Taliban officials to stress the importance of freedom of passage from Afghanistan for British citizens and Afghans who worked for us,” according to a government statement.
Dominic Raab said it was “important not to legitimize” the Taliban, adding that the UK and its allies would judge them by their actions.
He also stressed that there was an “opportunity to check how” the Taliban wanted financial support from international powers with which he said they would only cooperate if they allowed a “safe working environment” for foreign aid workers.
Lisa Nandy, a parliamentarian for the main opposition Labor Party, said the Taliban’s swift return to power and a hasty evacuation process were “the biggest foreign policy failure in a generation”.
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