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Afghanistan news – live: Even Taliban surprised by their success, says Raab amid fears group may seize UK arms

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Maroosha Muzaffar,Joanna Taylor
Friday 03 September 2021 15:59
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UK will not recognise Taliban, Dominic Raab says

Even the Taliban was surprised by the speed at which they took over Afghanistan last month, foreign secretary Dominic Raab claimed while speaking at a press conference in Pakistan.

“I think there was a common widespread surprise at the speed with which the consolidation of power happened,” he told reporters in Islamabad, adding “I suspect the Taliban and ordinary Afghans were taken by surprise.”

Mr Raab has maintained that the the pace of the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul was unpredictable, despite being warned in July that the extremist group could return to power as a result of foreign troops vacating the country.

Meanwhile, experts have warned that millions of pounds worth of British arms exported to Afghanistan could end up in the hands of the Taliban and terrorist groups in the region.

Katie Fallon, a coordinator for the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT), called on the government to “urgently investigate which end users now have control over these military goods”, which amount to £151m worth of weapons, ammunition and other equipment since 2008.

Labour has similarly pointed to the risk that of British weapons falling into the hands of the Taliban or the Afghan affiliate of Islamic State, Isis-K. “There is a clear risk of high-tech equipment falling into the hands of the Taliban, or worse, Isis-K and other terror groups,” shadow defence secretary John Healey said.

Sign The Independent’s petition urging the UK to take in more refugees from Afghanistan here.

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Facebook helped evacuees flee Kabul, company claims

Social media giant Facebook has claimed that it helped almost 200 people escape Afghanistan after the Taliban took control of the country, reports say.

The company says it helped to evacuate 175 people from Kabul to Mexico City, according to the BBC.

Among the group were Facebook employees, independent journalists and 75 children, they said. The Mexican government has reportedly corroborated these claims.

Joanna Taylor3 September 2021 09:22
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Afghan refugee detained after security screening at US base in Germany

An Afghan national, evacuated to a US military base in Germany, has been kept in custody for allegedly failing a security screening, a top US general in Europe said on Thursday.

The man’s identity has been “protected” by Pentagon and he is not believed to be a “high threat.”

“[The man] is currently in the appropriate custody of US interagency officials, and Germany has been very, very cooperative, and we are still working his background investigation,” European Command chief General Tod Wolters told reporters via video conference from Pentagon.

“During that initial in-screening process, if an individual pops red, we calmly take them out of the normal processing line, and we put them in a different location so that we can have some isolation and have a little bit of extra time to make sure that everybody is as safe and secure as possible,” Mr Wolters added.

Apart from the individual in custody, at least 58 Afghan nationals have been flagged for needing additional screening.

Afghan refugee detained after security screening at US base in Germany

The Afghan national’s identity has been withheld by the US

Joanna Taylor3 September 2021 09:37
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Reminder: Sign our petition urging the government to accept more refugees

The Independent is asking you to sign our petition urging Boris Johnson to offer sanctuary to as many Afghans as possible and for local authorities and charities devoted to their welfare to be given proper support.

So far, the government has pledged to help those who worked for the UK, including interpreters and their families. It has also pledged to take in another 5,000 people over the next year, including women and children, with a limit of 20,000 over the long term.

However refugee charities have warned the commitment falls far below what is needed to meet the scale of the immediate crisis.

We are calling on the government to go further and faster in providing safe haven to people who fear for their future after international forces pulled out of the country after 20 years.

Find out more:

How you can help bring more Afghan refugees to Britain

Do you think the government should be doing more to bring desperate Afghans to safety? Join our petition below

Joanna Taylor3 September 2021 10:00
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British weapons could fall into Taliban hands, experts warn

Millions of pounds worth of British arms exported to Afghanistan could end up in the hands of Taliban and terrorist groups in the region, experts have warned.

Figures collated by the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) show the UK has sent weapons, ammunition and other military equipment worth £151m to Afghanistan since the beginning of 2008.

Katie Fallon, a coordinator for CAAT, said the UK’s “short-sighted approach to arms export licensing will leave a brutal scar on the lives of Afghan civilians, women, and children in particular, for decades to come”.

UK weapons in Afghanistan could fall into Taliban hands, experts warn

British munitions worth £151m exported to Afghanistan over past decade, figures show

Joanna Taylor3 September 2021 10:11
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Raab: UK and Pakistan have ‘shared interest’ in moderating Taliban

The UK and Pakistan have a “shared interest” in creating a regional coalition aimed at holding the Taliban to account, the foreign secretary has said.

At a press conference in Islamabad, Dominic Raab said that such a regional coalition, involving other neighbouring countries such as Iran and Tajikistan, could apply a “moderating” force on the Islamist group.

“Pakistan’s support and role will be vital,” he said. “We have a shared interest in supporting a stable and peaceful future for Afghanistan.”

Joanna Taylor3 September 2021 10:14
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Raab: UK will ‘shoulder our humanitarian responsibilities’

Foreign secretary Dominic Raab has met with his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi and is set to enter talks with prime minister Imran Khan.

At a press conference in Islamabad during his visit to the region, Mr Raab said that the UK will be “shouldering our humanitarian responsibilities”.

He added: “We will also be supporting those countries who face greatest demands from those who may be displaced in the weeks ahead.”

The British government recently announced a £30 million aid budget aimed at bringing essential supplies to Afghan refugees stranded in the countries neighbouring Afghanistan, including Pakistan.

Joanna Taylor3 September 2021 10:24
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Women stage rare protest against Taliban

Dozens of Afghan women stood face to face with Taliban fighters in a rare protest on Thursday to demand their right to work and seek education as the Islamist group is set to announce a new government.

The women, clad in burqa and headscarf, took to rally on streets of western city of Herat holding banners and posters while chanting “don’t be afraid, we are together.”

“No government is stable without the support of women,” a poster read as they attempted to march toward the office of the governor of Herat while Taliban fighters stood guard.

Shweta Sharma has the details:

Women chant in protest against Taliban, ‘don’t be afraid, we are together’

Women continued protest despite Taliban members standing guard

Joanna Taylor3 September 2021 10:57
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Raab: Even Taliban ‘surprised’ by speed of takeover

Foreign secretary Dominic Raab has said that there was “common widespread surprise” at the speed at which the Taliban took over Afghanistan, even among the militant group.

Speaking in Islamabad on a visit to Pakistan, Mr Raab said: “I suspect the Taliban and ordinary Afghans were taken by surprise. I think there was a common widespread surprise at the speed with which the consolidation of power happened.”

Even Taliban ‘surprised’ by speed of Afghanistan takeover, says Dominic Raab

Foreign secretary says ‘common widespread surprise’ at militants’ success, as he holds talks in Pakistan

Joanna Taylor3 September 2021 11:07
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Western Union resumes operations in Afghanistan

Western Union will resume its operations in Afghanistan, the Taliban has said.

The financial service will once again allow foreign funds to flow into the country, having initially halted operations when the Taliban took over Kabul.

The move will also allow people remaining in Afghanistan to send money to relatives who are abroad.

Joanna Taylor3 September 2021 11:42
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‘Big questions’ remain over Raab’s handling of crisis, senior Tory says

“Big questions” remain for foreign secretary Dominic Raab over his handling of the unfolding crisis in Afghanistan last month, the head of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee Tom Tugendhat has said.

Launching an inquiry into the matter, the Conservative MP said: “While I thank the Foreign Secretary for appearing in front of the committee at late notice, big questions remain, and this inquiry hopes to provide some much-needed clarity.

“Lessons need to be learnt and the decisions the UK makes in the coming months will be crucial.”

Mr Raab appeared in front of the committee earlier this week where he was grilled by MPs about his handling of the crisis.

The foreign secretary was asked 11 times about the date in August on which he went on holiday to Crete — for which he has been criticised — but refused to confirm when he left the UK.

Joanna Taylor3 September 2021 12:05

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