Dominic Raab under pressure as delegated Afghanistan phone call never took place
Afghans who worked with Western forces during the 20-year conflict in the country are now being targeted by the Taliban, the Islamist group that has seized control and begun a campaign of reprisals against its enemies.
Western countries still control Kabul airport and have begun an airlift of UK nationals, Afghan translators and some refugees – although the number of Afghans the UK is willing to repatriate is limited.
Opposition parties have called on Mr Raab to resign over his slow return from his holiday in Crete and his refusal to make the phone call, which advisers believe could have saved more people.
An eyewitness told The Telegraph that Mr Raab was seen on the beach until at least 1.30pm GMT on the day that Kabul fell.
As Boris Johnson arranged for Parliament to be recalled from its summer recess, Mr Raab was playing paddle ball in the sand, the eyewitness said. The Foreign Office disputes the eyewitness account.
Mr Raab has rejected calls to quit and Cabinet colleagues have defended him, but some Conservative MPs remain unhappy with how he has dealt with the UK’s response to the escalating crisis.
It is thought that he could be replaced in the next Cabinet reshuffle, which could take place later this year.
Ministers are ‘working their backsides off’
On Friday morning James Heappey, a junior minister, said he did not know the detail of Mr Raab’s calls at the weekend but insisted ministers were “working their backsides off” to extract as many people from the country as possible.
“I completely understand why the media wants to ask these sorts of questions. It’s entirely reasonable. But you’ll forgive me, perhaps, if I focus on the job at hand and hopefully be reassured that if I tell you that absolutely every colleague at every level – be they political, military, or civil service – is doing everything they possibly can to make sure that we get as many people out as quickly as we possibly can,” he told Sky News.
The row over Mr Raab’s political future comes amid reports that three of the UK’s most senior civil servants, who are in charge of the departments dealing with the evacuation from Afghanistan, have been on holiday while events in Kabul unfolded.
Permanent secretaries from the Home Office, Foreign Office and Ministry of Defence are still on holiday, the Times reported.