Raab Hits Back at U.K. Criticism Over Skipped Afghan Phone Call
(Bloomberg) -- U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab defended his actions as the Taliban advanced on the Afghanistan capital last week, saying he was focused on work relating to the security of Kabul airport that trumped making a call to his Afghan counterpart to discuss evacuation efforts.
All of the U.K.’s major opposition parties have called for Raab to resign or be removed from his position, after the Daily Mail reported Thursday he’d failed to make a crucial phone call on Aug. 13 to Afghan Foreign Minister Hanif Atmar. He instead delegated the call -- which was meant to seek help airlifting Afghan translators out of the capital -- to a junior minister, Zac Goldsmith.
The call was delegated “because I was prioritizing security and capacity at the airport on the direct advice of the director and the director general overseeing the crisis response,” Raab said in a statement Friday. Atmar “agreed to take the call, but was unable to because of the rapidly deteriorating situation,” he said.
Raab has faced intense scrutiny for days after he stayed on holiday in Crete as the Taliban swept across Afghanistan. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government is struggling to contain the political fallout, after members of his Conservative Party criticized his decision to follow the U.S. in withdrawing.
If Raab were to quit, it would be a significant blow to Johnson, coming less than two months after Health Secretary Matt Hancock was forced to resign following revelations he had broken coronavirus rules while having an affair with a senior aide.
Raab said his decision to prioritize airport security last Friday meant 204 British nationals and their families, Afghan staff, and citizens of other countries citizens were able to be evacuated on Aug. 16. Since then, another 1,635 people have been evacuated, he said.
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