The British foreign secretary on Wednesday said that the “central assessment” of the UK government was that Kabul was “unlikely” to fall to the Taliban this year.
In parliament, Dominic Raab was grilled by MPs on the Foreign Affairs Committee over a hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan, where the Taliban have taken power.
“The central assessment that we were operating to, and it was certainly backed up by the JIC (joint intelligence committee) and the military, is that the most likely, the central proposition, was that given the troop withdrawal by the end of August, you’d see a steady deterioration from that point and it was unlikely Kabul would fall this year,” he said.
“That was something widely shared by NATO allies,” the secretary said, adding: “In fairness, collectively across allies the assessment that (the Taliban) would not be able to advance at that speed was not correct.”
“We started planning in June for the contingency of an evacuation and therefore a full drawdown of the embassy," Raab insisted.
Conservative Bob Seely asked the foreign secretary whether the government was caught “slightly on the hop” due to what he described as an "intelligence failure."
“We've got a very professional way of approaching these things,” Raab replied. “But when they're wrong … you need to look at how you correct that.”
“There are lots of lessons to be learned by the speed of the fall of Kabul,” he added.
Raab said he would be heading to the region imminently, and that he had already overseen high-level talks with Pakistan.
He has been censured for remaining on holiday in Crete while Afghanistan, and eventually Kabul, fell to the Taliban.
Since then, rumors are rife that he could be demoted from his position in any future Cabinet reshuffle.
Raab refused to give further details about his holiday, accusing his questioners of conducting a fishing expedition. He did concede, however, that with the benefit of hindsight he would not have gone on holiday.
He has also been criticized for being unable to exert any influence whatsoever on the Joe Biden administration in the US, delegating important tasks to junior ministers while on holiday, and failing to reach agreements with border countries such as Pakistan and Tajikistan on the visa processing of Afghan refugees.
At the end of the hearing, Tom Tugendhat, a Conservative MP, Afghan veteran, and chair of the committee said: “I stand by the view that this is the single biggest foreign policy disaster since Suez - it has exposed a weakness in our alliances.”
“I struggle with the Suez analogy,” Raab replied.