Ben Wallace hits back at Raab over Afghan crisis as top Tories 'fight like rats in sack'

The Defence Secretary said he warned that the ‘game was up’ in Afghanistan in July as Dominic Raab sought to blame military intelligence for failing to predict the Taliban’s rapid return to power

The Defence Secretary has said he warned in July that the “game was up” in Afghanistan as the Tory blame game heated up.

Ben Wallace hit back at Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab’s claims that intelligence was to blame for failing to forecast the speed of the Taliban’s return to power.

Mr Wallace said he issued a warning in July about the worsening situation – as his Tory colleague claimed Kabul was not expected to fall this year.

Labour blasted the top Tories for “fighting like rats in a sack” when British nationals and vulnerable Afghans are still struggling to get to safety.

Mr Raab flew to Qatar for talks on evacuating remaining British nationals and vulnerable Afghans and reopening Kabul airport.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab talks to staff at a resettlement programme for Afghanistan refugees in Doha, Qatar


Simon Dawson / No10 Downing Street)

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The embattled Foreign Secretary faced criticism for his handling of the crisis, and for taking a summer break in Crete in August as the Afghan capital fell to Taliban control.

He refused to say 11 times when he started his family holiday at a grilling by the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday.

Mr Raab claimed to MPs that the UK’s central intelligence was that the Afghan capital was unlikely to fall to the militants this year.

But he was confronted at the hearing with details of a leaked Foreign Office document which warned Kabul could fall to the Taliban amid “rapid advances” by the militants.

Mr Wallace hit back at the suggestion that intelligence had failed.

“I’ve already seen some lines about the failure of intelligence,” he told the Spectator.

“History shows us that it’s not about failure of intelligence, it’s about the limits of intelligence.

“When the Soviet Union crumbled, when Libya collapsed, when the actual moment came in Afghanistan, intelligence hadn’t failed.

“It was just limited, as it always is at the very end.”

Amid widespread criticism of Mr Raab’s August holiday, the Defence Secretary said he argued in July that the “game was up”.

“It was a bit of a shock when Herat fell. Some of these big places had historically been resistant to the Taliban. When they fell, literally without a fight, I think the game was up,” Mr Wallace said in the interview.

“I remember back in July arguing that whatever we think, the game is up and we have to do what we can to accelerate whatever we’re doing.”

Meanwhile, more details emerged of the Foreign Office briefing as pressure mounted on Mr Raab.

It warned: “These developments could directly undermine FCDO objectives by reducing UK counter-terrorism capability, and increasing compliance risks; enabling the flow of narcotics and illegal migration; increasing global humanitarian pressures; reducing oversight of HMG funding; destabilising the wider region, especially Pakistan; damaging the reputation of the UK and Nato; and increasing threats to staff for whom FCDO has a duty of care.”

Labour’s shadow security minister Conor McGinn said: “While British nationals and Afghans who helped us are fighting for their lives, the Cabinet are more interested in fighting for their jobs.

“It’s embarrassing to watch and tragic for those terrified in Afghanistan, who are looking to Britain for a way out of the despair, but just see a Government fighting like rats in a sack.

“We need a plan for those left behind in Afghanistan, and a focus on protecting Britain’s security, not this unseemly infighting at the top of Government.”


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