Foreign Secretary faces fresh call to quit

Foreign Secretary faces fresh call to quit

August 30, 2021

Generals open fire on Dominic Raab: Foreign Secretary faces fresh call to quit for being ‘asleep on watch’ as Afghanistan crisis erupted

  • Claims hundreds of Afghans who helped British may have been left behind  
  • Major General Charlie Herbert said Foreign Secretary should consider position
  • Former Army generals last night accused ministers of being ‘asleep on watch’

Former Army generals last night accused ministers of being ‘asleep on watch’ and warned they would have ‘blood on their hands’ if the Taliban kill any interpreter abandoned by Britain.

It came as Dominic Raab faced more pressure to quit last night over claims hundreds of vulnerable Afghans who helped the British may have been needlessly left behind.

Major General Charlie Herbert, who served in Afghanistan, said that the Foreign Secretary should consider his position.

It emerged yesterday that Mr Raab had not spoken to his Afghan or Pakistani counterparts once in the six months before the fall of Kabul.

One minister said that if the Foreign Secretary had come back earlier from his holiday in Crete this month, it may have been possible to save another 1,000 Afghans eligible for rescue.

Dominic Raab faced more pressure to quit last night over claims hundreds of vulnerable Afghans who helped the British may have been needlessly left behind

Major General Herbert, who has campaigned on behalf of translators and other vulnerable Afghans, said: ‘The lack of information being provided to those eligible personnel abandoned in Afghanistan is utterly disgraceful.

‘If Dominic Raab is not up to the task in hand he must stand down now and let someone else deal with this crisis.’ 

He added: ‘If any abandoned interpreter or local staff member is killed at the hands of the Taliban, their blood will be on the hands of the Prime Minister and his Foreign, Defence and Home Secretaries.’

Major General Herbert said that Defence Secretary Ben Wallace had ‘utterly betrayed those of us who served alongside our interpreters, and our hearts are broken’.

He spoke out after learning how Afghans who worked for the British Council in Kabul have been left stranded. 

Last night one of those workers, who cannot be named for security reasons, said: ‘The Taliban will kill me on the spot if they find me and they will blame it on Isis-K.

‘The Ministry of Defence got most of its people out but those of us who worked for the British Council are not covered by the MoD’s relocation scheme. We are stuck in Afghanistan and we are in great danger.’

And Lord Dannatt, the head of the Army from 2006 to 2009, told Times Radio: ‘On the particular issue of those who we knew were in danger, people who had worked for us, interpreters, former locally-engaged civilians, this issue has been on politicians’ desks for two to three years. 

Major General Charlie Herbert said that the Foreign Secretary should consider his position

Major General Herbert spoke out after learning how Afghans who worked for the British Council in Kabul have been left stranded. Pictured: Afghan interpreter Waheed in Helmand

Back in July, 45 senior officers wrote an open letter to the Government, saying there are people we are concerned about and if we don’t do the right thing, their blood will be on our hands. It is unfathomable why it would appear that the Government was asleep on watch.’

Last night Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Layla Moran said: ‘There is no question that Dominic Raab must resign. He failed to return from holiday. He failed to pick up the phone. Dominic Raab will go down as one of the worst Foreign Secretaries in history.’

The last British troops involved in the dramatic evacuation mission at Kabul airport are expected to return home today. 

Paratroopers and other soldiers from 16 Air Assault Brigade took off from Afghanistan on Saturday but flew to third countries to await connecting flights to the UK.

Yesterday Boris Johnson praised their efforts which led to more than 15,000 vulnerable Afghans, UK nationals and foreign citizens being airlifted ahead of tomorrow’s deadline for Western troops to leave the country.’

The Prime Minister also said that Britain will ‘engage’ with the Taliban – but insisted that they must let refugees leave Afghanistan and prevent terrorism to receive billions in aid. However, he stopped short of saying the UK would ‘recognise’ the Taliban government.

It came as the insurgents defied their own pledges to lead a more inclusive regime after fighters killed a well-known folk singer and women were banned from television and radio. Fawad Andarabi was shot in the head after his home was searched by militia.

 Boris Johnson praised the efforts of British troops and also said that the country will ‘engage’ with the Taliban

Former UK ambassador to Afghanistan Sir Nicholas Kay said of the Taliban yesterday: ‘I don’t think they’ve changed. One of their strengths is their single-mindedness and their strength of conviction and their faith in what they are doing and their cause.’

Meanwhile it was claimed yesterday that the decision by Mr Raab to remain on holiday in Crete at the start of the crisis cost vital days that meant up to 1,000 people have not been evacuated who could have been. 

One minister told The Sunday Times: ‘The PM wanted third countries involved and Raab did nothing. Boris is exasperated that the Foreign Office has not done what he told them.’

A senior official in the Pakistani government told the paper that Mr Raab had shown no interest in talking to them, claiming that he did not make a single phone call to the Afghan or Pakistani foreign ministers in the six months before the crisis. ‘He just didn’t care,’ the official said. 

The Foreign Office said Mr Raab had spoken twice to the Pakistani foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, on August 22 and again on Friday.

But they could not point to earlier conversations and admitted that responsibility for speaking to the Afghan foreign minister was delegated to Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, minister for South Asia. 

A woman passes the Taliban as they stand guard outside the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul

Lisa Nandy, Labour’s shadow foreign secretary, said: ‘When the Foreign Secretary sits down in front of the foreign affairs select committee this week, he has serious questions to answer.’

And last night, former SAS commander Colonel Richard Williams said of the Government’s performance: ‘It gives the impression that Whitehall was too concerned with Covid, Brexit and other domestic matters to focus on the humanitarian consequences of the Trump-Taliban deal of February 2020.’

Liberal Democrat defence spokesman in the House of Lords Baroness Smith of Newnham said: ‘Dominic Raab should consider his position. Even since his delayed return from Crete I don’t think Mr Raab has been fully engaged.’

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