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

Follow below for the latest updates

Maroosha Muzaffar,Joanna Taylor
Friday 03 September 2021 15:59 BST
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.


Russia in contact with Taliban members as new government set to be announced - State media

Russia is in contact with potential Taliban members of Afghanistan's government, the RIA news agency cited Russia's ambassador to Kabul as saying today.

Sources in the Islamist group said earlier that Taliban co-founder Mullah Baradar would lead a new Afghan government set to be announced shortly.

The Russian ambassador also said Moscow did not plan to supply weapons to the new authorities in Afghanistan, RIA reported.


Liam James3 September 2021 12:17

MPs launch inquiry into future of UK’s Afghanistan policy

The Foreign Affairs Committee has launched an inquiry to scrutinise the UK withdrawal from Afghanistan and examine the future of the government’s approach to the country under Taliban rule.

The inquiry will consider how the Taliban gaining power will affect matters including UK security, and human rights and humanitarian crises in Afghanistan. The wider effect of the Taliban takeover on the UK’s relationship with other countries including the US is also set to be examined.

Tom Tugendhat, the committee chair, said the inquiry will also ask what Britian should do to accommodate refugees and what kind of relationship Britain should have with Afghanistan going forward.

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

Adam Forrest has more on this:

MPs launch inquiry into UK ‘catastrophe’ in Afghanistan

‘Big questions remain’ about handling of crisis, says committee chief

Liam James3 September 2021 12:41

Women judges in Afghanistan fear death as men they jailed set free

Left-behind women judges in Afghanistan are fearing for their lives.

One high-level judge who fled to Europe told Reuters that men who were jailed by women judges have been freed by the Taliban and were seeking revenge.

In Kabul, “four or five Taliban members came and asked people in my house: ‘Where is this woman judge?’ These were people who I had put in jail,” she said, asking not to be identified.

Freed prisoners “are calling with death threats to women judges, women prosecutors and women police officers, saying ‘we will come after you’,” she said, adding that many colleagues had been in touch with her to say their lives were in danger.

Liam James3 September 2021 12:58

Raab checks in from Afghanistan border

Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, has tweeted photographs showing him at Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan.

He followed with a tweet on his meeting in Islamabad with Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Pakistan’s foreign minister, saying the pair discussed “how to ensure safe passage out of Afghanistan and the importance of a co-ordinated international response”.

Liam James3 September 2021 13:16

Afghan journalists in urgent need of protection, say UN human rights experts

Human rights experts have called on governments around the world to protect Afghan journalists and media workers who fear for their lives and are trying to flee Taliban rule.

Governments should help through measures including “expediting visas, assisting with evacuation and keeping their borders open for those who wish to leave Afghanistan”, the UN group urged.

“Reports of targeted killings of journalists and their family members, home raids, threats and intimidation in areas controlled by the Taliban have sharply increased in recent months,” they said, adding that female journalists were particularly at risk.

The UN group of experts includes Irene Khan, who deals with freedom of expression, Fionnuala Ni Aolain, with human rights, and Clement Voule, with protest rights.

Liam James3 September 2021 13:30

Prince William helped ex-military colleague flee Kabul, reports say

Prince William personally intervened to help an Afghan officer he knew at military college escape Kabul, it has emerged.

The Duke of Cambridge tasked his equerry Lieutenant Commander Rob Dixon with making calls on his behalf after hearing that the officer was struggling to flee the country, The Telegraph reports.

The officer, who attended Sandhurst with the duke, was reportedly able to board a UK-bound plane with more than 10 members of his family after they came up against crowds and chaos at the airport.

Kensington Palace has declined to comment.

Joanna Taylor3 September 2021 13:45

Watch: Dominic Raab hopes that Kabul airport will reopen 'in the near future'

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has said he has had “good conversations” with the Qatari Emir and foreign minister of Qatar about the possibility of reopening the airport in Kabul “in the near future”.

Raab said: “I don’t think we’re yet able to say anything formal but that’s looking like it may happen,” on the possibility of reopening the Hamid Karzai International Airport.

Watch here:

Watch: Raab says he hopes that Kabul airport will reopen 'in the near future'

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has said he has had "good conversations" with the Qatari Emir and foreign minister of Qatar about the possibility of reopening the airport in Kabul "in the near future".Raab said: "I don’t think we’re yet able to say anything formal but that’s looking like it may happen," on the possibility of reopening the Hamid Karzai International AirportThe foreign secretary remains under pressure surrounding the timing of a holiday he took to Crete while the Taliban were beginning to make gains in Afghanistan.

Joanna Taylor3 September 2021 13:55

Families of victims of the US drone strike in Kabul speak of their grief

Emal Ahmadi hasn’t slept since Sunday.

Unable to walk or eat, he weeps uncontrollably. His toddler was killed after a US drone incinerated a car inside a residential compound in a working-class neighbourhood Khwaja Burgh, on the outskirts of Kabul.

Mallika, meaning ‘queen’ in Arabic, was his queen. Distraught, he asked: “Can America give me back my Malika?” in a phone call with The Independent.

Continue reading Charlene Rodrigues’s report:

‘Can America give me back my Malika’: Relatives of US drone strike victims speak out

The US maintain that at least one of those killed in the drone strike was an IS ‘facilitator’ but the families protest there is no evidence to support this, writes Charlene Rodrigues

Joanna Taylor3 September 2021 14:14

Raab: UK and Pakistan will work closely on future evacuations

Foreign secretary Dominic Raab has said that the UK and Pakistan will work closely to ensure the safe passage of people from Afghanistan in future.

Mr Raab tweeted photos of himself meeting his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi during his visit to the region.

Earlier, he said that it is “good to see [the] situation on the ground and understand what’s happening at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border”.

Joanna Taylor3 September 2021 14:30

MPs launch inquiry into UK ‘catastrophe’ in Afghanistan

A parliamentary committee has launched an inquiry into Boris Johnson’s government policy for Afghanistan after the “catastrophic” fall of Kabul.

A cross-party group of MPs on the Foreign Affairs Committee will grill ministers and top officials on evacuation efforts and planning carried out for the Taliban takeover.

Foreign secretary Dominic Raab has come under pressure over his recent holiday in Crete, and an intelligence warning from July which suggested the Taliban could advance rapidly across Afghanistan.

Committee chair Tom Tugendhat thanked Mr Raab for his appearance in parliament earlier this week – but said “big questions remain” about the government’s handling of the crisis.

Adam Forrest has the story:

MPs launch inquiry into UK ‘catastrophe’ in Afghanistan

‘Big questions remain’ about handling of crisis, says committee chief

Joanna Taylor3 September 2021 14:50

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