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

1 September 2021, 21:36 | Updated: 1 September 2021, 21:39

Dominic Raab was unable to say how many people have been left behind in Afghanistan.
Dominic Raab was unable to say how many people have been left behind in Afghanistan. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

Dominic Raab has admitted he is "not confident" about the true number of people left behind in Afghanistan, as he was grilled by MPs.

At Wednesday's Foreign Affairs Committee, the Foreign Secretary said he is unsure how many people in Afghanistan who would be eligible for settlement in the UK under existing schemes have been "left behind".

Grilled on the subject in the Commons, he said: "I can't give you a definitive answer."

Asked to confirm the Prime Minister's assertion that the "overwhelming majority of people who worked for us are out", 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."

Earlier this week, Mr Raab told LBC the number of people left behind was in the "low hundreds" and pledged that the UK "will live up to all the commitments we've made".

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The Foreign Secretary was also questioned by MPs on Wednesday about a portrait of the Queen at the British embassy in Afghanistan, which he said should have been destroyed.

He said he was "conscious" of the embassy becoming part of a Taliban propaganda effort.

Asked if a portrait of her was left in the embassy in Kabul, as staff fled the group's rapid advance, Mr Raab said: "My understanding was that it was destroyed. Are you saying that it wasn't?"

After being told some militants have been pictured with a portrait of her, he went on: "We had a very clear… in fact I talked through with the team the policy for destroying not just documents but anything relating to HMG (the Government). It's not clear to me whether that came from outside or inside the embassy.

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"Clearly we were conscious of the attempted propaganda coup around the Taliban taking over embassies and what have you."

It was previously reported the Taliban had pledged to protect the portrait of the Queen.

The Times reported a figure in the group said: "We are under strict orders that the honour of the Islamic Emirate rests on our ability to safeguard the diplomatic quarter, including the British embassy.

"We are preserving security here until the day your diplomats recognise us and return here.

"Until then everything will be kept as it is. If we find a portrait of the Queen then we will safeguard her too. She is your affair not ours.

"When the British come back, as we hope they will, then we expect to be their guards too. Nevertheless, we are surprised to see the panic and speed of the British retreat from this war."

Embassy staff left Afghanistan as the Taliban advanced – though there are concerns that in the hasty withdrawal, some information of use to the Taliban had been left behind.

Mr Raab appeared at the committee amid speculation about his job, though Downing Street insisted he had the full confidence of Boris Johnson.