Dominic Raab rejects claims he was paddleboarding as Taliban captured Afghanistan

UK's foreign minister defends holiday in Greece but says he would have preferred to return sooner

Britain's Foreign Secretary said he would have liked to have returned from holiday sooner as the Taliban were rapidly advanced on Kabul.

But Dominic Raab rejected reports that he was “lounging on the beach” and insisted he was focused on evacuations and securing Kabul’s airport.

“With hindsight I wouldn’t have gone away at all,” he told the BBC.

Mr Raab faced calls to resign after it was revealed he was on holiday in Greece and returned on August 15, the day the Taliban captured the Afghan capital.

He was also criticised for failing to call his Afghan counterpart to discuss plans to fly interpreters to safety, but he defended his actions.

“The idea that I was lounging on a beach or … paddleboarding in the ocean, I mean, these things are just nonsense," he said. "In fact, the sea wasn’t open because there was a red flag. So, no one was paddleboarding.”

Mr Raab emphasised that the UK had helped more than 9,000 people leave Afghanistan since August 15.

All Nato forces are set to withdraw from Kabul by August 31, effectively ending their capacity to fly people from the airport to safety.

G7 countries say the Taliban must ensure that anyone who wants to leave Afghanistan must be allowed to do so, even after August 31.

“We will use every last remaining hour and day to get everyone we can back, the British nationals, the Afghans who worked so loyally for us, we are getting the Chevening scholars back, also women's rights defenders and journalists,” Mr Raab told Sky News.

“Mono-nationals, so single-nationality UK who have got documentation, the lion's share, almost all of them that want to come out have been brought home.”

Referring to the Taliban, Mr Raab said: “What we have then got to do is test them beyond the withdrawal date, will they still allow safe passage, as they have undertaken, will they allow humanitarian groups the permissive environment to be able to operate?

“So, there is a next stage of engagement, not recognition, engagement with the Taliban, and we will hold them very clearly to the assurances that they are already stating.”

Updated: August 25th 2021, 10:25 AM
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