James O'Brien 10am - 1pm
Afghanistan: Raab fails to answer questions on Crete holiday three times
1 September 2021, 15:21
Embattled foreign secretary Dominic Raab refused to answer questions about his holiday, taken as Kabul fell to the Taliban, three times.
Mr Raab, whose job security is under speculation, has been under fire since it emerged he was in Crete as the Taliban stormed Kabul.
It culminated the end of a lightning advance across Afghanistan – which put British nationals and Afghans who helped international forces at risk and in need of evacuation.
But pressed by MPs on the Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday, Mr Raab refused to provide more details on his holiday.
Labour's Chris Bryant said: "On August 11, the US said the Taliban were likely to seize the whole country, it was just a question of how long it was going to take. Were you already on holiday?"
Mr Raab did not answer, and instead said a central assessment judged the Taliban would enjoy a "consolidation of power" but it would happen "months following the evacuation".
Instead, the group swept through Kabul effectively unopposed with Afghanistan's president having fled.
Mr Bryant pressed Mr Raab on his holiday again, and the foreign secretary repeated his admission he "would not have gone away, with the benefit of hindsight".
Pushed again, he insisted: "I am not going to start adding to, frankly, the fishing expedition beyond the facts that I have articulated and the fulsome statement and having answered questions continuously about that."
Mr Bryant said Afghans who stood by Britain were in "peril for their lives" and he believed it was right for people to understand why Mr Raab went away, along with the Prime Minister.
During his committee appearance, Mr Raab told MPs that intelligence expected the situation in Afghanistan to deteriorate as international forces withdrew and that the Taliban would try to seize power.
But he said that just because they intended to conquer Afghanistan, it did not mean they had the capacity to do so – and intelligence, Mr Raab said, thought it unlikely Kabul would fall this year.
Asked if there had been an intelligence failure, Mr Raab said the government tries to "game out" possible scenarios and admitted the process of assessing information needed correcting.