Evacuations from Afghanistan could resume 'in the near future' - Foreign Sec

2 September 2021, 23:07 | Updated: 3 September 2021, 00:29

Dominic Raab said evacuating those left behind was his "immediate priority"
Dominic Raab said evacuating those left behind was his "immediate priority". Picture: Alamy Live News

By Daisy Stephens

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has said evacuations from Kabul airport may be able to resume "in the near future".

After discussions with Qatar about evacuations out of Kabul airport, Mr Raab told broadcasters: "I don't think we're yet able to say anything formal but that's looking like it may happen at some point in the near future."

Dominic Raab is currently at Qatar taking part in discussions on how to get remaining Brits and Afghan refugees out of Afghanistan.

While there, the Foreign Secretary announced that Martin Longden, the former deputy ambassador to the UK in Kabul, will head the UK's new mission to Afghanistan in Qatar.

Mr Raab tweeted: "I am pleased to announce that (Martin Longden) will temporarily head up our new Mission to Afghanistan in Doha, Qatar.

"Martin has extensive experience in the region and led the (Foreign Office) rapid deployment team at Kabul airport."

Dr Longden's previous roles also include being British ambassador to Lebanon and the UK special representative for Syria.

Speaking at a press conference in the country, Mr Raab said evacuating those left behind was his "immediate priority", and that "moderating" the actions of the Taliban in Afghanistan would require countries to work together.

"Now we need to get a wider buy-in, regional countries involved, and clearly there's a lot of countries with a direct stake about what happens in Afghanistan, as well as countries who will feel and be moved by the humanitarian risk and the plight," said Mr Raab.

"I think above all we need to put a grouping together that can exert the maximum moderating influence on what the Taliban does next, and we will certainly be judging them, yes on their words, but more importantly what they do to live up to the assurances they've made."

Read more: Taliban 'angry and disappointed' after US disabled military equipment before leaving Kabul

Read more: Dominic Raab flies to Qatar for talks on Afghanistan evacuations

He said Qatar would be an "influential player" in preventing Afghanistan from being a "haven" for terrorists, staving off a humanitarian crisis, preserving regional stability and holding the Taliban to account to form a more inclusive government.

Mr Raab also reiterated that the UK will not recognise the Taliban as the official Afghan government, but that the UK would take part in "engagement and dialogue" with them and judge them by "what they do, not just what they say".

The government has fallen under heavy criticism in recent days over its handling of the crisis in Afghanistan.

A leaked document suggests that officials were warned the collapse of Kabul could happen sooner than thought, something the Government called "wrong and misleading".

Read more: 'Wrong and misleading' to suggest security report warned of Kabul’s rapid fall – Govt

Dominic Raab has also been under pressure to resign over the fact he was on holiday in Crete at the time the Taliban took control of Afghanistan's capital.

He has also been criticised for not knowing the exact number of Brits and Afghan refugees left behind after the UK evacuation finished.

Read more: Raab ‘not confident’ about number of Brits and refugees left behind in Afghanistan

Read more: Final UK evacuation flight for Afghan nationals has left Kabul, MoD confirms

Asked on Thursday why he did not have a clearer idea of the number, Prime Minister Boris Johnson told reporters: "When you look at the numbers that we've helped to come out - both in terms of the eligible persons, the EP group, and the Afghan repatriation and assistance programme - we've way exceeded the numbers we thought were eligible.

"So, your question is a really good one but the answer is there are some - and we care for them very much, we're thinking about them, we're doing everything we can to help - but the extent of the evacuation, the extraction that has already happened, was really amazing."