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Pressure mounts on Raab over Afghan delays as it emerges delegated call didn't happen
20 August 2021, 06:34 | Updated: 20 August 2021, 06:42
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab's delegated phone call to his Afghan counterpart in Kabul never happened, it has emerged.
The call was believed to have been delegated to a junior minister as Mr Raab was "unavailable".
It was reported on Thursday that the Afghan foreign ministry refused to arrange a call with the junior minister, pushing it back to the next day, but the Foreign Office has now admitted it did not take place at all.
A spokesperson said: "Given the rapidly changing situation it was not possible to arrange a call before the Afghan government collapsed."
It comes as the first Secretary of State has been criticised for his lack of action amid the crisis, with a former Afghan interpreter accusing him of "failing" those trying to flee the Taliban.
However, when asked by reporters in Downing Street on Thursday whether he would be resigning from his position, Mr Raab said: "No."
The Foreign Office previously said: "The Foreign Secretary was engaged on a range of other calls and this one was delegated to another minister."
Labour have criticised the "unforgiveable failure of leadership" by the government, with it setting out a list of 18 urgent questions for the Foreign Secretary to answer about his trip and his department's handling of the crisis.
Meanwhile, some MPs have come out in support of Mr Raab.
Speaking to LBC, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the call would not have made a difference.
"No phone call to an Afghan Government that had predominantly melted away was going to make a difference," he said.
It has been revealed that Mr Raab was not the only one on holiday amid the evacuations from Afghanistan, with Sir Philip Barton, Matthew Rycroft and David Williams - the respective permanent secretaries of the Foreign Office, Home Office and Ministry of Defence - also away, according to The Times.
A government spokesperson said: "Departments across Whitehall have been working intensively at all levels in the last few days and weeks on the situation in Afghanistan.
"Thanks to these efforts, we have relocated over 2,000 Afghans to the UK since June, evacuated over 400 British nationals and their families on RAF flights since Sunday and established one of the most generous asylum schemes in British history."
The government has announced Britain will take up to 20,000 people wanting to exit Afghanistan as part of its resettlement scheme, with 5,000 due to be accepted in the next 12 months.