Dominic Raab has hit back at his cabinet colleague Ben Wallace’s assertion that he knew the “game was up” in Afghanistan by July, escalating the tensions over intelligence failures between the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence.
The defence secretary made several pointed comments in an interview on Thursday, where he contrasted his department’s handling of the 아프가니스탄 crisis with that of Raab’s embattled Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.
Labour called for an end to “unseemly infighting at the top of government” and said ministers should be less focused on trying to hang on to their jobs.
Wallace said he first thought that “the game was up” in Afghanistan and the western-backed government would fall “back in July” – and that plans to remove British diplomats, Afghan interpreters and others had to be accelerated.
수요일에, Raab told MPs that he had believed the Afghan capital would remain safe until next year, a view supported by the prevailing intelligence assessment.
The foreign secretary went on holiday to a luxury hotel in Crete on 6 팔월, not returning until after Kabul had fallen 10 days later – during which time Wallace was in the UK, deploying British troops to the airport as the Taliban advanced.
Speaking in Qatar on Thursday, Raab again denied Wallace’s assessment.
He told broadcasters: “Ben and I were taking the same assessment throughout until very late. The central assessment had been that Kabul wouldn’t fall until after the end of August and the evacuation of allied troops, and indeed there would be a steady deterioration throughout the remaining part of the year, so we were all working to the same set of assumptions.”
In his Spectator interview, Wallace also contrasted his own department’s handling of evacuations with the FCDO after it emerged over the weekend that Raab’s officials had failed to read thousands of emails from MPs and charities detailing urgent cases of Afghans trying to escape from Kabul.
The defence secretary argued the MoD was on top of its own cases, largely a well-defined group of Afghan interpreters and their families, 약 1,000 of whom remain trapped in the country after the RAF airlift ended over the weekend.
“All of us have big email inboxes, we have already analysed ours, we’ve sent defence intelligence analysts around Whitehall to help deal with that,” Wallace said.
Individuals on the ground were being discussed so frequently, the minister added, that he had “got to the point where I recognised the names being circulated because so many people were emailing about the same person”.
Tensions between the two departments first erupted in mid-August with Wallace privately accusing the Foreign Office of evacuating diplomats while leaving soldiers and Ministry of Defence staff to handle the fallout of the Taliban takeover of Kabul.
He complained that diplomats had been “on the first plane out”, with MoD officials having to replace them and bear the brunt of processing resettlement claims for people trying to flee the Afghan capital. The ambassador Sir Laurie Bristow remained in the capital until the final day of the evacuation and FCDO teams were later sent out to help with processing.
The shadow security minister, Conor McGinn, 말했다: “While British nationals and Afghans who helped us are fighting for their lives, the cabinet are more interested in fighting for their jobs.
“It’s embarrassing to watch and tragic for those terrified in Afghanistan, who are looking to Britain for a way out of the despair, but just see a government fighting like rats in a sack. We need a plan for those left behind in Afghanistan, and a focus on protecting Britain’s security, not this unseemly infighting at the top of government.”