Dominic Raab Doesn’t Know How Many UK Citizens Are Left In Afghanistan
Dominic Raab said he could not confirm exactly how many UK nationals are still in Afghanistan after the remaining Western troops left (Alamy)
The foreign secretary Dominic Raab has admitted he “can’t be definitive” about the number of UK nationals left behind in Afghanistan after the final Western troops left last night.
Raab said he believed the amount of Brits who did not make it out is in the "low hundreds”, adding the government is now working with neighbouring countries on a "workable route" for them to continue their escape.
"We lament the fact that anyone would be left behind” he told Sky News.
"Since April when we have been planning and instituting this over 17,000 British nationals, Afghan workers, vulnerable special cases are out.
“I know that the number of UK nationals – the particular responsibility of the Foreign Office – is now down at a very low level."
But he was unable to indicate exact numbers, and said instead the figure was likely to be in the "low hundreds given that we have taken 5,000 out, and most of those are difficult cases where it is not clear around eligibility because they are undocumented".
He said it will be a "challenge" for people trying to escape Afghanistan via a land border after militants took back the main airport in the capital Kabul, after the last American soldiers flew out on Sunday evening.
Last night's final military withdrawal met the deadline of leaving by August 31 set in an agreement between the US and the Taliban. Raab said the insurgents must now stick to their word and “allow safe passage, not just for our nationals but for Afghans, particularly vulnerable ones, who wish to leave”.
The foreign secretary also denied claims made to the Sunday Times that he did not take regular calls from his Afghan and Pakistani counterparts during the evacuation from Kabul airport.
"Anyone that is toddling off to the Sunday Times or any other newspaper at a time of crisis, including the evacuation which has been two weeks running, giving buck-passing briefings either at me or the FCDO is frankly not credible and it is deeply irresponsible,” he told Sky News.
Raab was however unable to refute the claims by confirming when he had in fact spoken to his his Afghan and Pakistani counterparts.
"I can't tell you my precise call sheet for the last six months," he later told LBC.
Raab also denied claims it was the UK's continued evacuation from Hamid Karzai airport that contributed to the terror attack in Kabul last week that killed more than 100 people, including 13 American service personnel.
Pentagon sources have told Politico that Britain called for the airport's Abbey Gate, where it was processing people for its flights, to be left open, which was where Isis-K, the offshoot of the so-called Islamic State, detonated its bomb.
"We co-ordinated very closely with the US, in particular around the Isis-K threat which we anticipated, although tragically were not able to prevent, but it is certainly right to say we got our civilians out of the processing centre by Abbey Gate,” Raab told Sky News.
“But it is just not true to suggest that other than securing our civilians inside the airport that we were pushing to leave the gate open.
"We were issuing changes of travel advice before the bomb attack took place and saying to people in the crowd, about which I was particularly concerned, that certainly UK nationals and anyone else should leave because of the risk."
The foreign secretary also said there were "real, tangible" gains from the UK's military action in Afghanistan over the last 20 years.
"We have got to look at the gains that we made because of the sacrifice of so many – British forces, US forces and Allied forces,” he said.
"We haven't seen, in that 20 years, Afghanistan used as a base for terrorism abroad.
“We have with our aid money and our wider development policy got 10 million more children into education – I think by the time we had left four in 10 of those were girls, if you look at the maternal mortality rate - so mums dying in pregnancy or childbirth – that was down by 50%.
"So there were real, tangible gains for all that sacrifice. Of course, now the focus is to recognise the new reality, learn the lessons of course from it but also focus on what we can do going forward."
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