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Britain's foreign minister faces pressure to resign

By JONATHAN POWELL in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2021-08-20 11:00

Britain's Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab walks outside Downing Street in London, Britain, Aug 19, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

Britain's foreign minister, Dominic Raab, is facing demands to resign following reports he declined to phone his counterpart in Afghanistan last week to get help with the evacuation of interpreters from Kabul who had worked for the British military.

Opposition parties in the United Kingdom have called for Raab to quit and expressed fury after The Daily Mail reported he was urged by senior aides on Friday to make a crucial call to Afghan foreign minister Hanif Atmar, but chose to delegate it to a junior minister.

A call from junior minister Zac Goldsmith was initially rejected by Atmar, because he was not his direct counterpart, according to the report. It said vital time was lost before the Taliban movement seized control of Kabul on Sunday.

News agencies are reporting that many Afghan translators who worked with British troops are trapped in the capital, unable to safely reach the airport with the Taliban now in control of the city.

The airport is the only route out of the country and the chaotic situation appears to be worsening daily.

Labour Party leader Keir Starmer tweeted: "Who wouldn't make a phone call if they were told it could save somebody's life?"

Labour's shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds described Raab's behavior as "utterly shameful" and a "dereliction of duty", while Liberal Democrat Layla Moran said Raab had "shamed Britain".

In a statement, Moran, the party's foreign affairs spokesperson, said Raab's lack of action made him "one of the worst" foreign secretaries ever.

"Right now, there are interpreters across Afghanistan who are surrounded by the Taliban and fearing the worst," she said.

"All the foreign secretary had to do was leave the beach and pick up the phone. He did not," Moran added: "He has shamed Britain and is no longer fit to represent our country."

However, Defense Minister Ben Wallace defended his Cabinet colleague's actions.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today program the Afghan government was "melting away quicker than ice "late last week.

"A phone call to an Afghan minister at that moment in time would have not made a blind bit of difference," he claimed.

Wallace said "the only thing that mattered" was whether Kabul airport would continue to allow people to get out.

The row erupted as the United Kingdom government announced a new resettlement program that commits to receive up to 20,000 Afghan refugees during the next few years, including 5,000 this year.

The European Union's foreign policy chief labeled developments in Afghanistan as "a catastrophe and a nightmare" on Thursday. Josep Borrell told the European Parliament that there had been a failure of intelligence to anticipate the Taliban's return to power there, Reuters reported.

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