'Nonsense!' Raab rejects claims he ignored Afghan and Pakistan counterparts

31 August 2021, 09:27

EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Dominic Raab says the idea that calls to the Pakistan and Afghan foreign ministers were neglected is "nonsense."

The Foreign Secretary has denied claims in the Sunday Times he did not take regular calls from Afghan and Pakistani ministers during the evacuation from Kabul airport, allegedly because he thought Afghanistan was "yesterday's war".

It was reported Mr Raab did not speak to counterparts in Afghanistan or Pakistan about securing safe passage for British citizens and refugees hoping to move to the UK until after the Taliban had taken control of Kabul.

Dominic Raab told Sky News: "Anyone that is toddling off to the Sunday Times or any other newspaper at a time of crisis, including the evacuation which has been two weeks running, giving buck-passing briefings either at me or the FCDO is frankly not credible and it is deeply irresponsible.

He told Nick Ferrari that he had been in "regular contact" foreign minister Qureshi of Pakistan, branding the suggestion "calls were neglected" as "nonsense."

"I can't tell you my precise call sheet for the last six months."

But he added he was part of a "team of ministers" and delegated some phone calls to colleagues including Lord Ahmad.

He added: "It is right that you have delegation, a division of labour if you are going to operate effectively as a team. Anyone who tells you otherwise has not done a job like this."

The Sunday Times reported a senior official in the Pakistani government who claimed Mr Raab had shown no interest in talking to them, claiming that he did not make a single phone call to the Afghan or Pakistani foreign ministers in the six months before the crisis.

“He just didn’t care,” the official said. “He thought Afghanistan was yesterday’s war and the government was totally focused on Brexit.”

The Foreign Office said Raab had spoken twice to the Pakistani foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, on August 22 and again on Friday. But they could not point to earlier conversations and admitted that responsibility for speaking to the Afghan foreign minister was delegated to Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the minister for South Asia.

Former Conservative leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith has described criticism of Dominic Raab's handling of the withdrawal from Afghanistan as "childish and pathetic".

Speaking on LBC, Sir Iain said: "A lot of the briefing against Dominic Raab is rather childish and pathetic, during the course of a crisis where you want this thing settled.

"You don't want to have a debate about whether somebody should be there or not there, as long as they're doing their job and you want them to get on with that job."