Ready to work with Taliban if needed: Boris Johnson

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Boris Johnson has defended Dominic Raab who has come under fire for his handling of the Afghanistan situation, reports Asian Lite News

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Friday Britain would work with the Taliban if needed after the militants capture of Afghanistan, and defended his foreign minister who has come under fire for his handling of the situation.

“What I want to assure people is that our political and diplomatic efforts to find a solution for Afghanistan, working with the Taliban, of course if necessary, will go on,” Johnson told media.

Asked if he still had confidence in Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab who has faced calls for his resignation from opponents for his response to the crisis, he said: “Absolutely”.

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab was forced to go on the defensive on Friday after it emerged that a phone call between him and his counterpart in the now-collapsed Afghan government failed to take place as the Taliban stormed towards Kabul over the weekend.

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab

In a statement, Raab insisted the government was “working tirelessly” to help people flee Afghanistan as he sought to defend his response to the crisis in the region.

“The whole government has been working tirelessly over the last week to help as many people evacuate from Afghanistan as possible. The UK Government’s overriding priority has been to secure Kabul airport so that flights can leave,” Raab said.

With specific reference to the missed phone call that has dominated headlines in the UK media over the past few days, the minister said: “On Friday afternoon, 13 August, advice was put to my Private Office (around 6pm Afghan time) recommending a call to the Afghan Foreign Minister. This was quickly overtaken by events. The call was delegated to a Minister of State because I was prioritising security and capacity at the airport on the direct advice of the Director and the Director General overseeing the crisis response. In any event, the Afghan Foreign Minister agreed to take the call, but was unable to because of the rapidly deteriorating situation.”

Boris Johnson
Military personnel are deploying to assist with the drawdown of British nationals in Afghanistan. (Credit Crown Copyright_Ministry of Defence)

Over 1,600 evacuated

Since Saturday, the UK has evacuated 1,615 people, including 399 British nationals and their dependants, 320 embassy staff, and 402 Afghan nationals who worked for the UK government in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, the government has announced £5m for local councils in England, Scotland and Wales offering to house Afghans who have arrived under the Afghanistan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) programme.

Under the scheme, Afghans who face threats from the Taliban having work for the UK in Afghanistan, have been allowed to come to the UK.

New arrivals from Afghanistan will be offered a first dose of a Covid vaccine and “rapid access to support for mental wellbeing”.

The government has said it will also provide “appropriate clothing” and toys for the children to keep them entertained.

Kabul airport now open to civilian air traffic. (XinhuaIANS)

A separate resettlement scheme has also been set up to relocate up to 20,000 Afghans over the long term with Home Secretary Priti Patel emphasising that the majority of those should be women and girls and persecuted minorities.

Meanwhile, Labour’s shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy said Raab’s defence “simply doesn’t add up.”

“It should have been an absolute priority to speak to the Afghan government and set out the immediate actions necessary to ensure the safe evacuation of Britons and Afghans,” she added.

On Friday, Raab attended a virtual Nato meeting where the members emphasised the need for an “inclusive” government in Afghanistan and urged the Taliban to uphold human rights.

Raab said: “The UK’s immediate priorities are working alongside our Nato allies to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a safe-haven for terrorists, ensuring that life-saving humanitarian aid can reach those who need it most, and working with international partners to safeguard stability in the region.”

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