Dominic Raab rejects claims of chaotic Afghan evacuation from ‘junior desk officer’ and insists it was success

Ex-foreign secretary hails ‘heroic effort’ – but does not deny only 5 per cent of people requesting help got out

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Tuesday 07 December 2021 10:35
Raab rejects Afghan evacuation chaos claims from ‘junior desk officer’

Dominic Raab has dismissed a whistleblower’s revelations about the chaotic Afghan evacuation as coming from a “junior desk officer” and insisted it was a success.

The former foreign secretary hit back at the devastating evidence from Raphael Marshall – but did not deny that only 5 per cent of people at risk from the Taliban takeover received help.

Mr Raab called the evacuation a “heroic and herculean effort” which got out 15,000 people and argued any delays were because of the situation in Kabul, not blunders at home.

“We did everything we could,” he insisted, describing the UK effort as “a record that those involved, particularly those working on the ground, should be proud of”.

He denied he was demoted to justice secretary because of his dismal handling of the crisis in August, or that his job was at risk again because of the whistleblower’s revelations.

Asked if, as alleged, he “did not fully understand the situation”, Mr Raab told BBC Breakfast: “I don’t accept that. This is from a relatively junior desk officer.”

Mr Marshall has alleged that tens of thousands of Afghans were left stranded following the fall of Kabul, because of chaos and confusion in the Foreign Office – blaming Mr Raab directly.

The turmoil led to “people being left to die at the hands of the Taliban”, he said, alleging the former foreign secretary delayed vital decisions and insisted on evidence being presented better in a spreadsheet.

The testimony has alarmed Tom Tugendhat, chair of the Commons foreign affairs committee and a former soldier – who has pointed to “failures of leadership around the Afghan disaster”.

“These failures betrayed our friends and allies and squandered decades of British and Nato effort,” he said.

“The evidence we’ve heard alleges dysfunction within the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and substantial failings throughout the Afghanistan evacuation effort.

“The evacuation has been described as a success by some, but these allegations point to a very different story – one of lack of interest, and bureaucracy over humanity.”

In his evidence, Mr Marshall disputed whether a No 10 claim to parliament that all emails from Afghans attempting to leave the country had been processed by 6 September was accurate.

And he revealed there was uproar at the Ministry of Defence when Boris Johnson ordered an Afghan animal charity be given priority for evacuation.

“There was a direct trade-off between transporting Nowzad’s animals and evacuating British nationals and Afghan evacuees, including Afghans who had served with British soldiers,” he said.

But Mr Raab denied that claim, telling Sky News: “That’s just not accurate. We did not put the welfare of animals above individuals.”

And, asked of his demotion was the result of his handling of the crisis, he replied: “Those are decisions for the prime minister, but I am pretty confident from what he said to me that it wasn’t in relation to Afghanistan.”

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