Nandy blasts holidaying Raab over missed emergency calls to Afghanistan

Lisa Nandy says Dominic Raab should “be ashamed” after it was reported help for Afghan interpreters who had supported British troops was delayed because the Foreign Secretary was on holiday in Crete and unable to make a phone call.

Lisa Nandy
Lisa Nandy

Labour’s shadow foreign secretary and the Wigan MP said: “What could possibly have been more important than safeguarding the legacy of two decades of sacrifice and hard-won victories in Afghanistan?

"While the Foreign Secretary lay on a sun lounger, the Taliban advanced on Kabul and 20 years of progress was allowed to unravel in a matter of hours.

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“The Foreign Secretary should be ashamed and the Prime Minister has serious questions to answer over why he remains in the job.”

Dominic Raab

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said a suggested phone call from Mr Raab to Afghan foreign minister Hanif Atmar on Friday would not have made “any difference whatsoever”.

The Daily Mail said Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office officials suggested Foreign Secretary Mr Raab call Mr Atmar two days before the Taliban marched on Kabul in order to arrange help for interpreters, only for Mr Raab to be “unavailable” while on holiday.

The paper claimed the Afghan foreign ministry then refused to arrange a call with a junior minister, pushing it back to the next day.

But Mr Wallace told Times Radio: “Last Friday, when we were dealing with this, the problem was not whether ministers in the last Afghan government were getting phone calls, as we saw their remit and their power was almost zilch at that moment in time.

“The problem we faced was whether the airport would be open or not, whether we could get our flights that we’d already been doing – both civilian flights, as you remember, and military – out the country. That was the focus of the Government at the time, and I’m not sure a ministerial phone call at that moment in time would have made any difference whatsoever other than trying to seek reassurance,

“But the reality was, by that stage, the game was up and what we had to do was just keep that airport open and that’s why we flew in soldiers, and that’s what you see today.”

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The UK has not sent a single plane home from Afghanistan empty, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has said.

Responding to reports that evacuation flights to other countries had left Kabul with only a handful of people on board, Mr Wallace told Times Radio: “Our people are getting through, we haven’t sent a single empty plane home.

“And I don’t think many other nations have. I can’t speak for other nations, obviously, but fundamentally, the key here is when we have a plane if we have a single empty seat, we will offer it to other nations.

“We’ve taken out interpreters who work for Nato, for example, we’ve taken out fellow European or other… we took some Japanese people out recently who were in need, so we will use every space on our planes possible.”

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