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Dominic Raab has dismissed US claims Britain was indirectly responsible for the suicide bombings at Kabul airport this week by insisting that the Abbey Gate entry point to the site remain open to allow British nationals to enter the airport.

He said “the story was just plain wrong,” adding that nothing the UK had done required Abbey Gate to stay open.

In a difficult series of media interviews defending the role of the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office in the withdrawal from Afghanistan, the British Foreign Secretary was also unable to say whether the newspapers of calls would show that he had made a single phone call to the foreign ministers of Afghanistan or Pakistan in the six months preceding the crisis, adding that he had delegated the matter to a subordinate minister, Lord Ahmad.

Raab also rounded up his detractors by describing them as “peripheral people who slander and point fingers at peripheral people involved in the money transfer,” adding that no department has done better than the Foreign Ministry. Among its targets were retired military personnel, including Lord Dannatt, saying they had to consider whether the resources needed to build the nation in a climate as inhospitable as Afghanistan had ever been sufficient.

Defending Britain’s role ahead of the ISKP suicide bombings at Kabul airport, he said: let’s say we got our civilians out of the treatment center through Abbey Gate, but that’s not all just not true to suggest that apart from securing our civilians inside the airport, we were pushing to leave the door open.

“In fact, and let me be clear on this, we were posting changes to the pre-bombing travel advice and telling people in the crowd, which I was particularly concerned about, that British nationals and whoever should go… because of the risk ”.

Raab admitted there had been an increase in complaints from Afghans fearing retaliation from the Taliban who contacted the Foreign Office or MPs seeking a chance to come to the UK who were stranded in Afghanistan.

He vowed that MPs would receive a proper response within days, but declined to accept allegations reported by the Guardian that as many as 7,000 complaints or emails had yet to be processed.

The increase occurred when a government resettlement program was put in place, he said, but many of them were diverted to the Home Office hotline, and their eligibility would be verified by the Home Office. He said arrangements similar to those made by Germany were being made for claimants to be treated in neighboring countries.

The number of British nationals still in Afghanistan, he said, was in the hundreds. Overall, the UK had secured safe passage for 17,000 people since April, including 5,000 British nationals. “Most of the remaining cases are difficult complex cases where individuals are not documented, they may have dual nationality or be part of a larger family unit where some are not eligible,” he added.

Raab denied that the UK was slow to predict the crisis, saying central NATO military intelligence was that there would be slow gradual progress by the Taliban after August.

Work is still underway with the Taliban to allow Qatar or Turkey access to Kabul airport to help with a civilian airlift. Qatari Foreign Minister Sheihk Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani told the Financial Times: “What we are trying to explain to the Taliban is that airport safety and security requires much more than securing of the perimeters of the airport. He said the Taliban did not want to see a foreign security presence at the airport.

Raab also rounded up his criticism ahead of an appearance before the all-party foreign affairs select committee on Wednesday, saying: “Anyone who goes to the Sunday Times or any other newspaper in times of crisis, including the evacuation which has lasted two weeks in a row, giving briefings to me or to the FCDO is frankly not credible and it is deeply irresponsible.

He also gave his first clue that he had not supported the military campaign, saying: “Afghanistan was originally about counterterrorism, but has turned into something closer to nation building.

“We have to be realistic in an inhospitable climate like Afghanistan’s about the extent to which these goals have been reconciled in 20 years with the means to achieve them. He said he was sure the former British Army chief Lord Dannatt would like to think about this. Dannatt had accused the ministers of being “asleep on the watch”.

He defended Foreign Office chief Sir Phillip Barton for staying on vacation during the crisis, saying it was essential that figures do not suffer from burnout. Barton’s deputy Tom Drew and Afghanistan director Nigel Casey were both working.
He has already said that in hindsight he wished he had returned from his own vacation in Crete sooner.

“It’s right that you have a division of labor if you want to function effectively as a team. Anyone who tells you otherwise hasn’t done a job like this, ”he said.

theguardian Gt

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