Raab returns home following diplomatic tour to assess Afghanistan crisis

Dominic Raab’s diplomatic journey to help Afghans fleeing the Taliban comes to an end when attention is drawn to Westminster.

The Foreign Minister left Pakistan after holding talks with his counterpart Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Prime Minister Imran Khan and the country’s army chief.

Mr. Raab also visited Torkham, an important border crossing between Pakistan and Afghanistan, to see the “challenge” from a “humanitarian perspective”.

He continued, “But also for British nationals or Afghan government workers trying to cross the border.

“We talked about the practical precautions to ensure a safe border crossing to Pakistan and other third countries.”

Mr. Khan’s office said the Pakistani Prime Minister stressed the need to “stabilize the security situation in Afghanistan, take steps to consolidate peace and prevent all mass exodus”.

In a statement, he added that he “also warned of the role of ‘spoilers’ both inside and outside Afghanistan that could destabilize the situation”.

With the airport in Afghanistan’s capital Kabul still closed, Pakistan is vital to the mission to help people flee Afghanistan as the two nations share a land border.

The House of Commons will return from its summer recess on Monday, with Mr Raab and Prime Minister Boris Johnson expected to come under renewed pressure to explain their response to the crisis and how they will help more people leave the country.

More than 8,000 former Afghan workers and their families eligible under the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy (Arap) were among the more than 15,000 people evacuated from the UK since August 13.

However, it is feared that thousands of Afghans who supported British efforts in the country and their relatives, as well as other vulnerable civilians, have been left behind.

Mr Raab, who was criticized for vacationing in Crete in August when the Taliban came to power, used a press conference in Islamabad to claim there was “general surprise” at the pace of change in Afghanistan.

He said: “I think the takeover was quicker than expected, not just the UK or the NATO allies, but I spoke to our friends here.

“And I suspect the Taliban and the ordinary Afghans were taken by surprise.

“I think there has been a widespread surprise at the rate at which power has been consolidating.”

These statements differed from Mr Johnson, who claimed it had been “clear for many months” that the situation in Afghanistan could change “very quickly”.

Raab also visited Qatar and held talks with Tajik Foreign Minister Sirojiddin Muhriddin during his visit to the region to assess the crisis.

Sir Simon Gass, the prime minister’s special envoy for the Afghan transition, has also held talks with the Taliban.

Mr Johnson reiterated that any recognition of the Taliban depends on “upholding human rights” and providing safe passage for people who want to leave Afghanistan.

After talks between the Prime Minister and his Dutch counterpart Mark Rutte, a Downing Street spokesman said on Friday: “They discussed the situation in Afghanistan and agreed on the need for coordinated international efforts to prevent a humanitarian emergency in the region.”

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