01 September 2021

Dominic Raab confirms Afghan guards for British embassy yet to be evacuated

01 September 2021

Afghan guards who protected the British embassy in Kabul were unable to reach evacuation flights, according to the Foreign Secretary.

Dominic Raab said buses were arranged to collect some of the guards but they were “not given permission to enter” the airport.

He did not offer further details on the difficulties they faced nor specify how many guards remain in Afghanistan when quizzed by MPs on the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Mr Raab also confirmed he has ordered a “full review” of the closure of the UK’s embassy in Kabul, amid concerns over the details of UK-linked Afghans falling into the hands of the Taliban.

Asked about the evacuation of the guards, Mr Raab told MPs: “We wanted to get some of those embassy guards through but the buses arranged to collect them, to take them to airport, were not given permission to enter.”

On the closure of the embassy, Mr Raab suggested the failure to destroy sensitive data was “regrettable” and it reflected the “pressure on the ground”.

He said: “We had a five-day schedule approach for closure of the embassy and it got brought forward because of the situation on the ground.

“I have nonetheless asked for a full review of what happened to make sure we can learn lessons.”

The Times last week said it found papers identifying seven Afghans while Taliban fighters patrolled the embassy.

Mr Raab said: “All of those whose names The Times passed to us and who worked for us are now in the UK.”

Taliban fighters stand guard at a checkpoint (Wali Sabawoon/AP) (AP)

The Foreign Secretary was also asked if a portrait of the Queen had been left in the UK embassy.

He replied: “My understanding was that it was destroyed. Are you saying that it wasn’t?”

Mr Raab was told some Taliban fighters had been pictured with a portrait.

He replied: “We had a very clear, in fact, I talked through with the team the policy for destroying not just documents but anything relating to HMG.

“It’s not clear to me whether that came from outside or inside the embassy.

“Clearly we were conscious of the attempted propaganda coup around the Taliban taking over embassies and what have you.”

Mr Raab earlier said there was a “peak” of 20 Foreign Office staff in Afghanistan during the evacuation effort, and they were joined by 13 Border Force officials.

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