The Foreign Secretary appears before the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee after facing criticism for the handling of the UK’s exit from Afghanistan
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is hauled before MPs today in a rare recess sitting of the Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee.
He is due to face a barrage of questions from MPs over his personal decisions about Afghanistan and the Government’s handling of the crisis.
The Taliban sped rapidly through the country before seizing Kabul on August 15 – prompting Raab and Boris Johnson to rush back from their summer holidays.
The UK and the US scrambled to evacuate their citizens and Afghans at risk of reprisals from the Taliban before Western forces left the country.
But Raab has admitted that hundreds of British nationals were left behind.
AFP via Getty Images)
Get a daily morning politics briefing straight to your inbox. Sign up for the free Mirror Politics newsletter
The questions Raab must answer include:
Why didn’t you come home from holiday earlier?
Raab was staying at a luxury five-star resort in Crete as the Taliban advance on Kabul unfolded.
He defied calls to quit after it emerged neither he, nor any other minister, called the Afghan government to discuss the evacuation of translators stranded in the country.
He has claimed the speed of the militants’ lightning-quick march into the capital “even caught the Taliban by surprise”.
While he admitted that “with the benefit of hindsight I would have been back earlier”, Raab insisted: “The stuff about me lounging around on the beach all day is just nonsense.
“The stuff about me paddle boarding is just nonsense.
“The sea was actually closed, it was a red notice.
“I was focused on the Cobra meetings, the Foreign Office team, the director and the director general, and international engagement.”
Why was there a failure of intelligence over how quickly the Taliban would return to power?
Raab is responsible for overseeing the Secret Intelligence Service, known as MI6.
If he claims he did not come back sooner from Crete because no-one thought the Taliban would march across Afghanistan with such ease, that suggests deficiencies in Britain’s intelligence-gathering.
On July 9 – five weeks before Afghan president Ashraf Ghani fled the capital – Britain’s Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir Nick Carter, said it was possible Afghan government forces “could hold the ring” of provincial capitals.
This proved hopelessly inaccurate.
How many Britons are still stuck in Afghanistan?
The last RAF flights left Kabul over the weekend, with officials knowing British citizens were still in the war-ravaged nation.
Raab admitted the number of UK nationals remaining in Afghanistan was in “the low hundreds”.
MPs are likely to demand a more specific number, so they can gauge the scale of the challenge in getting them out now Western forces have abandoned the country.
AFP via Getty Images)
How are they supposed to leave?
The Taliban has claimed that foreign nationals and Afghan citizens with travel authorisation will be allowed to depart the country.
But few experts trust the militants and are waiting to see over the next few days whether they honour their promise.
Britons who want to flee must make their way to neighbouring countries and contact UK Government staff.
Downing Street said it was bolstering the number of officials in nations bordering Afghanistan, to help evacuate the remaining people left behind.
But the committee will want to know how in practice those affected can get out – and how difficult their journeys will be.
How will the UK launch air strikes against terror targets in Afghanistan?
The Foreign Secretary claimed the UK reserved the right to carry out military operations in the country in Britain’s self-defence, after the Chief of the Air Staff signalled the RAF was prepared to launch air strikes against Islamic State in Afghanistan.
But in practice this could be difficult.
Western forces now have no air bases in Afghanistan, with the nearest station for coalition jets at Al-Udeid in Qatar.
AFP via Getty Images)
RAF planes could operate out of there or Akrotiri in Cyprus for attacks on Afghan targets, but sorties would involve mid-air refuelling – taking longer and costing more money.
Forward air controllers, who call in bombing raids and identify targets, have left Afghanistan.
Drone strikes are another option, though they are controversial.
Raab may be expected to outline more details so MPs can be confident the UK could physically go after terrorists in Afghanistan.