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Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has admitted to a parliamentary committee that he does not know how many people were left behind in Afghanistan after the UK’s evacuation came to an end.
Appearing before the Foreign Affairs Select Committee on Wednesday, Raab said he was “not confident with precision to give you a set number” when grilled by MPs on how many people the government failed to evacuate of Afghanistan after it fell into the control of the Taliban.
In a heated exchange with Labour MP Chris Bryant, Raab said the number of UK citizens left in Afghanistan was in the “low hundreds” but refused to be more specific.
“If I could give you any more precision, I would,” Raab said.
Bryant stressed that “low hundreds” allowed for a wide range and pushed him for a more precise figure, asking the Foreign Secretary: “Do you mean 110, sort of area? Or do you mean 200, 300, 400?”
Raab said the government did not have a more precise figure, but insisted Boris Johnson was correct last week when he claimed the “overwhelming majority” of people eligible for evacuation had got out.
Parliament is still in recess but Raab agreed to appear before a special session of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee amid growing questions over the government’s response to the crisis in Afghanistan, which culimated with a chaotic evacuation of civilians over the weekend.
The Foreign Secretary has faced pressure to resign over his role in the response and after it emerged that he was on holiday when the Taliban was advancing on Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul.
Raab told MPs he would travel to the the region tonight for talks with leaders about the future of Afghanistan after US-led western forces withdrew from the country last month.
In his opening exchanges with committee chair, Conservative MP and former soldier Tom Tugendhat, Raab was unable to answer questions about how many foreign office ministers had visited the region in recent weeks.
Dominic Raab has revealed he will travel to the Middle East later today
The foreign secretary also addressed claims he had not been engaged on the issue as it developed, insisting he’d had 40 phone calls on Afghanistan from March to August
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However, he rejeted claims that he did not have enough contact with foreign ministers in the region in the run-up to the withdrawal from Afghanistan.
“From the period mid-March to August 30 I had over 40 meetings or telephone calls where Afghanistan was on the agenda. So that’s broadly one every four days,” he told the committee.
The Foreign Secretary acknowleged that his department had issues responding to emails from people about individuals stuck in Afghanistan after The Observer reported that its inbox regularly contained 5,000 unread emails last week.
“The issue is as you had a surge for the door, you had a surge of emails including late emails and requests like that,” Raab told MPs.
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