After a week of hostile briefings over his future as foreign secretary, Dominic Raab appeared before MPs this afternoon to face the music. As a blame game gets underway in Whitehall over the chaotic response to the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, Raab has found himself in the firing line. One government source suggested his handling of the crisis meant he ‘has about as much chance of being in a top four position by next spring as Arsenal’ when it comes to a cabinet reshuffle. This afternoon, Raab came out swinging — defending his department’s handling of the situation and pointing blame in the direction of others.
The session became rather heated at certain points — from Raab’s inability to say how many eligible Afghans were left behind to his refusal to say when exactly he went on holiday. What emerged from the session was the foreign secretary’s line of defence when it comes to how the UK was caught off guard. He said that he had held over 40 meetings or telephone calls where Afghanistan was on the agenda between mid-March and 30 August and used the fact he is embarking on a trip to the region to argue that as a ‘modern foreign secretary’ he is used to working abroad and remotely. Raab said that he hadn’t missed a singly Cobra while away.
While he admitted developments in Afghanistan ‘clearly caught us unawares in terms of the pace and scale of the Taliban’ surge, he said this was the result of military intelligence failures — the ‘central’ intelligence assessment was that Kabul would not fall this year. However, this defence was weakened by the committee chair Tom Tugendhat who read out a leaked Foreign Office risk report from July 21 warning of the collapse of Afghanistan. What’s