The Foreign Secretary, who was on holiday when Kabul fell, sought to blame military intelligence for failing to predict the speed of the Taliban’s advance
Image: AFP via Getty Images)
Dominic Raab is under fresh pressure over his handling of the Afghanistan crisis as an armed forces chief rubbished his attempts to blame military intelligence for failing to predict the speed of the Taliban’s advance.
General Sir Nick Carter, the Chief of the Defence Staff, waded into the row over the UK’s response to the crisis, which has seen the Foreign Secretary and the Defence Secretary embroiled in a Whitehall blame game.
He admitted that “everybody got it wrong” but many assessments suggested the Taliban takeover would happen this year.
Boris Johnson is expected to face MPs on Monday over the Government’s handling of the collapse of Kabul as Parliament returns from the summer recess.
Mr Raab, who was on holiday in Crete when Kabul fell, suggested last week that military intelligence had been wrong over how quickly the Taliban would seize control of Afghanistan following the withdrawal of Western forces.
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He told MPs last week that the UK’s assessment was there would be a “steady deterioration” but Kabul was unlikely to fall this year.
But Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, shot down his claims, saying: “It’s not about failure of intelligence, it’s about the limits of intelligence.”
Sir Nick also denied his assertion that the military intelligence had been wrong.
“No. The first scenario I think also would’ve said is it was entirely possible that the government wouldn’t hold on that much longer, he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.
“Indeed, many of the assessments suggested it wouldn’t last the course of the year and, of course, that’s proven to be correct.”
He said a number of scenarios had been considered back in July and “one of them certainly would be a collapse and state fracture”.
“I think everybody got it wrong,” Sir Nick admitted.
AFP via Getty Images)
“It was the pace of it that surprised us and I don’t think we realised quite what the Taliban were up to.
“They weren’t really fighting for the cities they eventually captured, they were negotiating for them, and I think you’ll find a lot of money changed hands as they managed to buy off those who might have fought for them.”
He said even the Taliban did not expect to take back power of Afghanistan so swiftly and had suffered “catastrophic success”.
“They were not expecting to be in government as quickly as they have appeared and the reality is they are trying to find their feet,” he said.
“We need to wait and see how this happens and recognise that they’re probably going to need a bit of help in order to run a modern state effectively and if they behave perhaps they will get some help.”
Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said it would be “bizarre” to hold formal talks with the Taliban.
The Tory MP, who served in Afghanistan, told Sky News: “I have to say I think formal talks with the Taliban are a somewhat bizarre idea given that it doesn’t have a formal structure.
“The fact that it still hasn’t formed a government two, three weeks after it took Kabul is partly an indicator of the divisions within the organisation, it is fighting within itself as to what it does.
“So, the idea that these talks are meaningful in a traditional sense, I’m afraid they’re not.”
He added: “The idea that the Taliban is changed, it’s got a much slicker PR outfit, I don’t know who it’s hired but it’s got a similar group to the people who are doing Isis PR in northern Syria, but the reality that it’s changed the way it treats women or murder minorities is complete rubbish, they’re still as brutal and vicious as they were.”
Mr Raab travelled out to the region at the end of last week to discuss evacuation efforts for remaining British nationals and vulnerable Afghans.
He has come under sustained pressure over his personal actions after it emerged he was still on holiday with his family when Kabul fell.
A poll of Tory activists by ConservativeHome found Mr Raab’s popularity had plummeted from a 73% net satisfaction rate last month to just 6%.
It also comes as Boris Johnson was reportedly considering a cabinet reshuffle this week, which could see Mr Raab and Education Secretary Gavin Williamson axed from their posts.