PM fails to back Raab during Commons grilling on Afghanistan

6 September 2021, 15:12 | Updated: 6 September 2021, 22:05

  • Boris Johnson praises "courage and ingenuity" of military during Kabul airlift, calling it "one of the most spectacular operations" since the Second World War
  • PM says UK will do "everything possible" to help Afghans resettle, adding the obligation "lives on" to those who it has pledged to help leave
  • He says if the new regime in Kabul wants recognition it must stick to agreement to prevent Afghanistan becoming an "incubator for terrorism"
  • Sir Keir Starmer brands Mr Johnson "incapable of international leadership", calling the Government "complacent" over Taliban's advance
  • PM fails to back under-fire Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab as he dodges questions on his future

By Patrick Grafton-Green

Boris Johnson failed to back Dominic Raab as he dodged questions on the Foreign Secretary's future during a grilling on the Government's response to the Afghanistan crisis.

The Prime Minister was noticeably silent amid accusations of Mr Raab's incompetence as he was questioned by MPs on Monday afternoon.

Mr Raab has been heavily criticised for his response to the crisis, and SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford declared he should be sacked during the session in the House Commons.

Mr Blackford asked if Mr Raab would "finally be sacked in any reshuffle or does (Mr Johnson) intend to reward incompetence?"

In reply, Mr Johnson discussed the Afghan resettlement programme - but despite a dismissive gesture as Mr Blackford spoke about Mr Raab, the PM did not give a direct reply.

Shortly before, the Prime Minister gave a statement declaring the UK would do "everything possible" to help Afghans and others entitled to resettle in the UK.

He said the UK's obligation "lives on" to those who it has pledged to help leave Afghanistan.

"Let me say to anyone who we've made commitments to and who is currently in Afghanistan: we are working urgently with our friends in the region to secure safe passage and as soon as routes are available we will do everything possible to help you to reach safety," he said.

He added that if the new regime in Kabul wants "international recognition and access to the billions of dollars currently frozen in overseas accounts" then they will be held to account on their agreement "to prevent Afghanistan from ever again becoming an incubator for terrorism, and we shall insist on safe passage for anyone who wishes to leave, and respect the rights of women and girls".

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer criticised the Government's handling of the crisis, telling MPs: "Because of this lack of leadership, the Government has left many behind to whom we owe so much."

He added that Mr Johnson was "incapable of international leadership just when we needed it most".