Raab refuses to apologise for failing to make crucial phone call
Besieged minister Dominic Raab refuses to apologise for failing to make crucial phone call while on holiday to seek help for Afghan translators, as Boris Johnson insists Foreign Secretary ‘absolutely’ has his backing
- Dominic Raab didn’t call any foreign counterparts in days leading up to Kabul fall
- He only started making calls to his foreign counterparts on the Sunday afternoon
- But this was once the Taliban insurgents had entered the capital of Afghanistan
Dominic Raab last night refused to apologise for failing to make a crucial phone call while he was on holiday to seek help for Afghan translators.
Boris Johnson insisted yesterday that he ‘absolutely’ had full confidence in the Foreign Secretary as the Government mounted a frantic operation to shore up his precarious position.
But in an another damaging development last night, it emerged that Mr Raab did not call any of his foreign counterparts in the days leading up to the Taliban’s seizure of Kabul.
Dominic Raab last night refused to apologise for failing to make a crucial phone call while he was on holiday to seek help for Afghan translators
The Foreign Office had insisted he did not speak to the Afghan foreign minister last Friday – despite advice from senior officials – because he was ‘engaged on a range of other calls’.
But it is understood he just spoke to British officials and fellow ministers in the week before the Taliban took Kabul.
Mr Raab, who was staying at a luxury beach resort in Crete, only started making calls to his foreign counterparts on the Sunday afternoon once the insurgents had entered the Afghan capital. The Foreign Office last night declined to comment.
The Mail revealed on Thursday that Mr Raab had been advised by senior officials to call Afghan foreign minister Hanif Atmar to help get Afghan translators out of the country.
But he failed to do this and the call was delegated to the on-duty minister Lord Goldsmith. The Daily Mail then revealed yesterday that the call in fact never actually took place.
Boris Johnson insisted yesterday that he ‘absolutely’ had full confidence in the Foreign Secretary as the Government mounted a frantic operation to shore up his precarious position
Mr Raab said yesterday that ministers had been ‘working tirelessly’ over the past week to evacuate British nationals and Afghans.
In his first full statement on the affair, he confirmed he had been advised to contact Mr Atmar last Friday but said the ‘call was delegated to a minister of state because I was prioritising security and capacity at the airport’.
‘In any event, the Afghan foreign minister agreed to take the call, but was unable to because of the rapidly deteriorating situation,’ he added.
But last night the Foreign Secretary faced fresh criticism for failing to apologise or include any hint of contrition in his statement.
Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy said: ‘There is no defence for Dominic Raab’s shameful negligence and his failure to act may have cost lives. It is unbelievable that even now the Foreign Secretary is wasting time making excuses when a catastrophe is still unfolding in front of our eyes.’
Earlier, Lord Robertson, who was Nato secretary general on 9/11, accused Mr Raab of ‘a dereliction of duty of major consequence’. Asked if the Foreign Secretary’s statement had satisfactorily answered questions about his actions, the former defence secretary replied: ‘No, it doesn’t at all.’
He told BBC Radio 4’s World At One: ‘Foreign ministers only talk to foreign ministers – they don’t talk to junior ministers.
‘So he should have been talking to the foreign minister of Afghanistan much earlier than last Friday anyway.
‘Common sense would have suggested that the Foreign Secretary should have been trying to sort out the exit of our vulnerable people before that.’
The former Labour foreign secretary Jack Straw said he would never delegate a call with his Afghan counterpart to another minister and he was ‘surprised’ that Mr Raab did so.
But the Prime Minister last night dismissed calls to sack his Foreign Secretary. Asked if he had full confidence in Mr Raab, Mr Johnson said: ‘Absolutely.’
Asked if people had been left in Afghanistan as a result of Mr Raab not making the phone call, he said: ‘No, I don’t think that’s the case.’
Now read Yama’s story, Mr Raab, and tell us we’ ve done everything we can to save the translators who gave so much for Britain
By David Williams for the Daily Mail
A former frontline interpreter was in tears when he spoke to the Mail yesterday from a secret location in Kabul: angry, desperate and terrified.
One hour earlier, Yama had received an email from the British. Without warning, he was told – in stark officialise – he no longer qualified for sanctuary.
It was a bolt from the blue. The British had granted him permission to come to the UK eight months ago, and he and his disabled wife Parwana, 30, had been waiting for the call to leave.
He has spent months playing cat and mouse with the Taliban, growing a traditional beard to blend in, and, as they advanced on the capital, he has changed homes three times. On one short journey this week, he risked 12 checkpoints.
The 31-year-old former translator had been desperately trying to get to the airport and on to a flight with his wife.
One hour earlier, Yama had received an email from the British. Without warning, he was told – in stark officialise – he no longer qualified for sanctuary. It was a bolt from the blue
Now, he feels abandoned by the country he served so faithfully.
His bleak message: ‘I know I am going to be killed – there is no other way. I am very desperate.’
No wonder. This week, he had to flee his latest hiding place as Taliban fighters went door-to-door.
‘We just heard noises… and suddenly one of our female neighbours knocked on our door and explained about the searches by the Taliban group,’ he said.
‘Scared, I put on my clothes and ran from my home… They went door-to-door, asking about weapons, vehicles and the documents. They were shouting and entering homes after knocking very strongly. Everyone just panicked.’
He said he fled to a relative’s house four miles away and sent his wife to her parents’ home.
And then, yesterday morning, he received the devastating news from the Home Office.
The former translator said: ‘I could not believe it. We are heartbroken, devastated and do not understand this. It is so cruel and unjust. The Taliban is hunting me by name because of my work for the British forces.
‘One minute, we are anxiously waiting for a call from the British Afghan team asking us to go to the airport to fly to the UK, and the next – without any explanation or justification – we are told we are being left behind to the revenge of the Taliban.
‘I am so angry but I am also frightened. Why did they build up our hopes and then crush us just as the Taliban is growing nearer?’
The couple say they are especially vulnerable because Parwana is disabled in her legs – the result of shrapnel from a Taliban mortar when she was five – and has enjoyed a high-profile international career as a powerlifter, a type of competitive weightlifter.
She has competed for Afghanistan around the world and was selected to take part in the Paralympics in Tokyo. But because of the worsening situation, she put her athletic career on hold.
Yama said: ‘She has proudly represented her country many times as a disabled woman who uses a wheelchair. This alone would make her a target of the Taliban even without me being a translator for their enemy.’
He continued: ‘We desperately try to stay a step ahead of the Taliban but it is difficult now that so many of their men are arriving and they have spies everywhere, even in my wife’s family.
‘We have waited and waited for relocation, answered many questions and completed many forms but it has taken so long that the Taliban has arrived.’
He added: ‘We are in shock and do not know what to do.’
Yama, who spent three years in Helmand between 2010 and 2013, said he was forced to resign after members of Parwana’s family warned him he would be punished for working for the British forces.
He says he is baffled as to why he has been refused sanctuary. He wonders if it is because some of his relatives are Taliban. One, he said, attacked him with a knife for his translator work.
For its part, the Government sounds as if it will not budge. Asked about the case, it said in a statement: ‘We are doing everything we can to resettle Afghan nationals but we will not compromise on security.
‘We have thorough checks across Government and world-class intelligence agencies. If someone is assessed as presenting a national security risk to this country, we will take action.’
But this statement fails to address the fact that Yama had already been accepted in December, only for the invitation to be snatched away at the eleventh hour – with, says the ex-translator, possibly fatal consequences.
An Afghan interpreter who translated for Prince Charles and government ministers pleaded last night for his family to be allowed into Britain.
Nazir Ayeen, 32, served from 2007 to 2010 with the Royal Marines and Scots Guards on the frontline in Helmand.
He also translated during high-profile VIP visits, which included Charles in 2010, pictured together, and William Hague when he was foreign secretary.
Mr Ayeen fled Kabul in 2013 over death threats from the Taliban and he was granted asylum in England.
But his mother, two brothers and two sisters stayed behind – and are now ‘prime targets’, moving twice in ten days in fear of their lives, he said.
Mr Ayeen told the Mail: ‘Every hour, every day they are messaging me.’
He has written to Charles and is awaiting a response.
Nazir Ayeen, 32, served from 2007 to 2010 with the Royal Marines and Scots Guards on the frontline in Helmand
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