Dominic Raab Says Britain Must “Adjust To The New Reality” In Afghanistan
Dominic Raab is set to visit Qatar and Pakistan during a tour of the region (Flickr/Number 10)
Foreign secretary Dominic Raab has stressed that the government’s "immediate priority" is to secure safe passage for UK nationals and at-risk Afghans to Britain.
Speaking during a visit to Qatar, Raab said that the UK must “adjust to the new reality” of the situation in Afghanistan and be “pragmatic and realistic” about the West’s relationship with the Taliban.
The UK would not recognise a Taliban government "any time in the foreseeable future", Raab said, but that there is "important scope for engagement and dialogue" with the militant group.
Raab added that he’d had “good conversations” with Qatari leaders about the prospect of working with them to ensure safe passage for eligible people from Afghanistan to the UK.
He stressed the need for “dialogue and engagement” with the Taliban, and said it was important for the West and its allies to “test the intentions” of the new regime.
“We don't recognise governments, we will not be recognising the Taliban, but we do see the need to be able to have direct engagement,” Raab told reporters in Doha.
“Otherwise we can't provide messages and we can't listen to the response.”
“As my friend Sheikh Mohammed said, I think there are some early tests for the Taliban.," Raab continued.
"One was their approach to the airport during the evacuation.
“Now we're into a different space. Can we see safe passage provided out of Afghanistan? That will be quite an important first test.
“But we need to be able to discuss that, or engage on that, and there'll be other issues. We all want to avoid that humanitarian disaster or crisis.”
The foreign secretary also said he had visited some Afghan refugees in Doha who had already escaped the country, and was moved by their accounts of escape.
“I had the opportunity to visit the compound which is accommodating Afghan refugees here in Doha and hear their heart-rending stories.
“It reminded me of my father who came to the UK at age six, and we will extend a warm welcome and provide haven to those who wish to come to the UK and who are eligible.
“Our commitment on the part of the UK to Afghanistan remains. We need to adjust to the new reality. And I think we had good conversations about what that will involve.”
Raab confirmed yesterday during his select committee appearance that he was travelling to the region around Afghanistan once the session had ended.
During the session, the foreign secretary defended his handling of the crisis, insisting that the UK was "caught out" by the speed of the Taliban takeover.
The foreign office confirmed on Thursday morning that he had travelled to Qatar to meet with the country's leaders to discuss the situation in Afghanistan with the hope of ensuring safe passage for foreign nationals.
Raab met with the Emir of Qatar and the Qatari foreign minister to discuss their commitments to ensuring the Taliban government will bear down on the threat from terrorist groups such as Isis and Al-Qaeda.
Qatar has become a key negotiator with the Taliban, and it has hosted the group's political office in the country for eight years.
The British Embassy to Afghanistan, which has been temporarily relocated to Qatar until it can be re-established in Afghanistan, is now up and running in Doha.
Raab is also expected to travel to Pakistan, which shares a border with Afghanistan, to hold high level talks with Pakistani officials related to evacuation efforts.
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