THE UK has to adjust to a “new reality” for Afghanistan following its takeover by the Taliban.
The Foreign Secretary, speaking at a press conference in Doha, Qatar, said there was still work to be done to ensure the safe evacuation of British nationals and others from the country.
However he said there needed to be a “buy-in” from other countries in order to exert pressure on the militant group now controlling the country, and ensure they stick to their promises over human rights.
Mr Raab said: “Of course we need to adjust to the new reality, and our immediate priority is to secure the safe passage of those remaining British nationals but also the Afghans who worked for the United Kingdom, and indeed others who may be at most risk.
“We need to get a wider buy-in, regional countries involved, and clearly there’s a lot of countries with a direct stake about what happens in Afghanistan, as well as countries who will feel and be moved by the humanitarian risk and the plight.
“I think above all we need to put a grouping together that can exert the maximum moderating influence on what the Taliban does next, and we will certainly be judging them, yes on their words, but more importantly what they do to live up to the assurances they’ve made.”
The foreign secretary was grilled by MPs yesterday at a select committee in the Commons, where he refused to give details of which amabssadors he had spoken to as the crisis unfolded in Afghanistan. He also refused to say when he first went on holiday to Crete, where he remained while Kabul fell to the militants on August 15.
He said the Government “feels a responsibility” to make sure the remaining British nationals and Afghans who helped UK forces get out of the country, but did not say explicitly how this would be done.
Talks are ongoing between UK officials and the Taliban as well as neighbouring countries to set up routes to get out.
The Foreign Secretary said: “We have secured safe passage out of a Afghanistan for over 17,000 British nationals, Afghan workers and other special cases since April, but I do think we feel responsibility to make sure that the remaining British nationals and Afghan workers can come to the UK, that is why we watch with great interest what may be possible at Kabul airport.
“But we are also here and I am here – not just in Qatar but moving on afterwards – to talk to regional countries about how we can ensure safe passage through third countries.”
He described Qatar is a “lynch pin” in dealing with the crisis, adding: “I think it will be important to build an international coalition around this. I think our Qatari friends are clearly a lynch pin, an influential player, in that.”
Qatar’s foreign minister has said the Gulf state is “hopeful” that Kabul airport will reopen soon, allowing for further evacuations from Afghanistan.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani Was speaking alongside Mr Raab this morning, when he said: “Regarding the airport, actually we are still in the evaluation process.
“There is no clear indication when it is going to be fully operational yet but we are working very hard and also engaging with the Taliban to identify what are the gaps and the risks for having the airport back up and running.
“We will remain hopeful that we will be able to operate it as soon as possible.”