DOMINIC Raab was warned Afghanistan was on the verge of falling to the Taliban two weeks before he jetted off on holiday, a leaked document reveals.
The bombshell report, seen by The Sun, blows apart the Foreign Secretary’s claim no one predicted the Taliban’s lightning advance.
Dominic Raab faced a grilling in the Commons today[/caption]
Tom Tugendhat ambushed the Foreign Secretary by quoting from a secret government document[/caption]
And it will heap fresh pressure on the Cabinet minister, who is already battling to cling on to his post amid accusations he was “asleep on the job” as Kabul burnt.
Hauled in front of MPs for a grilling, Mr Raab blamed intelligence failures for Britain’s humiliating retreat.
He said the “central assumption” was that Kabul “would be unlikely to fall this year”.
But Tory MP and Foriegn Affairs select committee chairman Tom Tugendhat ambushed the Foreign Secretary by quoting from a secret government document which warned of the imminent danger.
Quoting from the principal risk report – published on July 22 – Mr Tugendhat said “Afghanistan peace talks are stalled, the US NATO reform is resulting in rapid Taliban advances.
“This could lead to: fall of cities, collapsing security forces, Taliban return to power, mass displacement and significant humanitarian need.
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“The embassy may need to close if security deteriorates.”
Mr Raab insisted they were “very mindful” of the risks.
Just two weeks after the report was published, on August 6, Mr Raab jetted off to a family holiday at a luxury five star Crete hotel.
As he sunned himself on the beach, Afghan cities crumbled and terrified families fled the Taliban advance.
He defied Downing Street orders to return on Friday August 13 as the situation deteriorated even further, only returning in the early hours of Sunday august 15 – the day Jabul fell.
But in a stormy two hour select committee grilling, Mr Raab repeatedly insisted the intelligence did not predict the Taliban would sweep to power so quickly.
He said: “The most likely the central assessment was that it would be Taliban consolidation of power, it would take place in the months following the evacuation, and that the rule would not fall before the end of the year.”
During a fiery session in Parliament:
- Mr Raad admitted Afghan guards at the British embassy in Kabul were among those left behind
- He was adamant he ordered a portrait of The Queen at the embassy to be destroyed so the Taliban wouldn’t get it
- Mr Raab said the central assessment of the UK Government was that Kabul was “unlikely” to fall in 2021
- He estimated the amount of Brits left in Afghanistan was “in the mid to low hundreds”
- He was pressed about his luxury holiday to Crete but refused to reveal any more details, branding probes a “fishing expedition”
- Mr Raab said he never considered quitting during the crisis
The Foreign Secretary’s handling of one of Britain’s biggest overseas crises in modern times came under the microscope in Parliament this afternoon.
He is on the ropes for a series of blunders – with colleagues privately calling him “Minister Meathead” because he’s destined for the chop.
This could lead to: fall of cities, collapsing security forces, Taliban return to power, mass displacement and significant humanitarian need
Government risk report
But the defiant Foreign Sec came out swinging and insisted he never considered resigning amid furious accusations he was asleep at the wheel .
Showing he’s getting on with the job, the Foreign Sec revealed he was leaving straight after the two-hour session to fly to Asia.
He said: “We’re always very careful about signalling travel movements because of the security implications.
“But I can tell you I’m leaving after this committee to go to the region.”
MISSION NOT COMPLETE
Ministers have repeatedly vowed to rescue those Brits and Afghans who missed out on evacuation flights.
Mr Raab said Brits still stuck were “in the mid to low hundreds” but couldn’t give a “definitive answer” for eligible Afghans.
Asked to confirm Boris Johnson’s assertion that the “overwhelming majority” were airlifted , he said: “I’m not confident with precision to be able to give you a set number, but I am confident that the Prime Minister is right, that we’ve got the overwhelming number out.”
This morning the Foreign Office announced that 15 diplomats will be deployed to Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to help process eligible refugees.
Mr Raab revealed he ordered a portrait of The Queen hanging at the British embassy in Kabul to be destroyed before diplomats deserted.
The Foreign Secretary told MPs he didn’t want to hand Taliban thugs a “propaganda coup”.
But he seemed shocked to hear there ARE pics of the militants posing with the precious painting.
The Foreign Sec insisted: “I talked through with the team the policy for destroying not just documents but anything relating to HMG.
“It’s not clear to me whether that came from outside or inside the embassy.
“Clearly we were conscious of the attempted propaganda coup around the Taliban taking over embassies and what have you.”
Diplomats abandoned their outpost in the Afghan capital as the Taliban seized the city.
Their frantic retreat meant sensitive documents with details of vulnerable Afghans were strewn around the building for the Taliban to find.
Mr Raab said the blunder was “regrettable” and reflected the pressures on officials.
Mr Raab also admitted that some Afghan guards at the British embassy were among those left behind.
He said: “We wanted to get some of those embassy guards through but the buses arranged to collect them, to take them to airport, were not given permission to enter.”
UNDER THE SPOTLIGHT
Committee chair Tom Tugendhat – who has torn strips off the Government in recent weeks – told Mr Raab the crisis is the worst since Suez.
MPs on the committee retured to Westminster from their summer holidays for an emergency meeting.
They summoned embattled Mr Raab last week as military planes scrambled to airlift Brits and desperate Afghans out of Kabul.
Labour’s shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy has presented her Tory opposite number with a lengthy charge sheet of 10 “failings”.
It includes uncomfortable questions about Mr Raab’s holiday to Crete while Kabul fell – although the Foreign Sec has repeatedly said he was busy coordinating the evacuation.
Ms Nandy also wants answers to reports that sensitive details of vulnerable Afghans were left strewn around the abandoned British embassy in Kabul for Taliban thugs to find.
One Tory MP told The Sun: “We have started calling him Minister Meathead. Everyone thinks he is for the chop.”
The beleaguered Cabinet Minister yesterday slammed critics briefing against him, furiously accusing them of “buck passing”.
The PM’s official spokesman said: “There are no plans for any reshuffle. The Prime Minister has full confidence in his Foreign Secretary.”
Future engagement with the Taliban will be on the agenda[/caption]