Raab under renewed pressure as evacuation situation worsens

Humza Yousaf said the foreign secretary was 'having pina coladas by the pool' instead of making a call to help stranded interpreters.

Raab under renewed pressure as evacuation situation worsens Getty Images

The foreign secretary is under renewed pressure after new claims emerged accusing him of failing to engage with foreign counterparts on the Afghanistan situation until the Taliban had reached Kabul.

Dominic Raab has faced calls to resign in recent days over his handling of the Afghanistan crisis.

Scotland’s Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said foreign secretary Dominic Raab was “having pina coladas by the pool” instead of making a call to help stranded interpreters.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson backed Raab on Friday, but that was before claims surfaced in the Daily Mail suggesting Raab did not pick up the phone to other foreign ministers until Sunday, the day the Afghan capital fell to insurgents, as he was on holiday.

The Times reported that witnesses saw the cabinet minister swimming and using a paddleboard on the last day of his break, which was spent at a beach at a five-star hotel on the Greek island of Crete.

Raab was already in the firing line after it emerged he delegated a call about repatriating Afghan interpreters, while away on August 13, to a junior minister, a decision that resulted in the phone conversation with the Afghan foreign minister not taking place and possibly delaying taking them to safety.

The foreign secretary returned to the UK on Monday to begin dealing with the unfolding debacle in person.

Asked about the latest allegations, the Foreign Office highlighted Raab’s statement issued on Friday – comments made before the claims emerged.

Raab earlier this week insisted he had been “talking to foreign counterparts” while out of the country, as well as taking part in emergency Government Cobra meetings remotely and dealing with his team in London on an “hour-by-hour basis”.

Attempts to repatriate British nationals and Afghans who supported UK efforts in the country are continuing against the clock as the situation at Kabul airport appeared to worsen.

The US embassy in Afghanistan is recommending that US citizens avoid travelling to the airfield “because of potential security threats outside the gates”, with reports of violent scenes and overcrowding at the main entrance and at Taliban checkpoints.

Sky News said they had spoken to British troops at the airport who had served in Afghanistan previously, and who said the queues, crushing and desperation of people to get out of the country were the worst scenes they had witnessed during their service.

Time is running out to repatriate people to the UK ahead of US President Joe Biden’s August 31 deadline to withdraw most remaining US troops.

On Friday he did not commit to extending it, in a move that is likely to mean British troops must return home at the same time, as the airport cannot be held without US enforcement.

Reports have suggested the last evacuation flight could be as soon as Tuesday, in order to give British troops enough time to leave safely.

The Prime Minister said 1,000 people had been brought to the UK on both Thursday and Friday, with most of them UK nationals or those who had assisted British efforts in Afghanistan.

Despite claims that the situation in the country is improving, a former Royal Marine-turned charity director in Afghanistan said he cannot get to Kabul airport without putting his life at risk.

Paul Farthing, known as “Pen”, has been trying to get all of his 25 staff from animal welfare charity Nowzad, their families and more than 100 dogs and cats out of the country as the Taliban complete their takeover.

As the chaos at Kabul airport shows no sign of letting up, Mr Farthing said he feels “completely numb at the incompetence” of the Government’s efforts so far.

Dominic Dyer, who has been campaigning for Mr Farthing, told the PA news agency, however, that progress had been made in acquiring visas for all 68 people in his entourage, but said the “main obstacle” is still “getting through the airport” where thousands of people are scrambling to escape.

Speaking at a rally in Glasgow, Scotland’s health sHumza Yousaf took aim at Mr Raab and the UK Government.

“In amongst all these big numbers, in amongst the trillions and the billions and the millions and the hundreds of thousands, not one single apology from the UK Government,” he said.

“Not one single syllable of regret by any UK Government.

“Not one single ounce of compassion from the UK Government even now at the most desperate time of need for our Afghan brothers and sisters.

“Shame on each and every one of those political leaders who have abandoned the Afghan people.”

He added: “All the while we have a foreign secretary who is more occupied with having pina coladas by the pool as opposed to picking up the phone to help Afghan interpreters who helped our soldiers there in Afghanistan.

“Shame on each and every one of them.”

With difficult scenes still unfolding, a former chairman of Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee has called for its current membership to investigate whether an “intelligence failure” led to the chaotic withdrawal of allied forces.

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