Afghanistan: Taliban appear to interact with seized US guns
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The UK is now in talks with the Taliban in efforts to evacuate British citizens left in the country after the US and other allied forces departed earlier this week. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s special representative for Afghan transition, Simon Gass, flew to Doha, Qatar, to meet Taliban representatives according to a Government statement released on Tuesday. The Foreign Secretary was grilled over his management of the Afghanistan crisis today – leading to him revealing he is unsure just how many Britons and eligible Afghans could be stuck in the country facing danger from the governing Taliban fighters.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab was questioned over Britain’s handling of the Afghan crisis on Wednesday, September 1.
Mr Raab said intelligence officers expected a “steady deterioration” rather than the rapid takeover undertaken by Taliban fighters.
Nato countries were caught out when the Taliban rapidly captured Afghan cities before taking over Kabul on August 15.
The Foreign Secretary told a parliamentary committee that a similar view was shared among Nato allies.
He said: “The central assessment was that it would be a Taliban consolidation of power, but that it would take place in the months following the evacuation and that Kabul would not fall before the end of the year.
“That was the central assessment, with all the usual caveats. That’s something that was widely shared, that view, among Nato allies.”
During the almost two-hour grilling by the House of Commons foreign affairs committee, Mr Raab gave more insight into what led to August’s panicked evacuation ahead of the August 31 deadline for foreign troops to withdraw from the country.
MPs were left frustrated after the Foreign Secretary failed to provide clear information about the number of people eligible to come to the UK who are still stuck in Afghanistan.
He said: “I’m not confident, with precision, to be able to give you a set number, but I am confident that the prime minister is right, that we’ve got the overwhelming number [of British nationals] out.”
When pressed for an estimate, he said the number of UK nationals remaining is likely “in the low hundreds.”
Labour MP Chris Bryant pressed the Foreign Secretary, to which he responded “low hundreds sounds like it could be 400 or it could be 105, 110 or 115.”
However, Mr Raab was unable to narrow it down any further.
He added: “If I could give you any more precision, Chris, then I would.”
Figures compiled by the Guardian suggest there are more than 7,000 people estranged in the country – dwarfing Mr Raab’s assessment.
Scores of Labour MPs report being inundated with pleas for help from desperate constituents and their family members since the August 31 deadline passed.
Among those left in the country seeking help are children, disabled relatives and people who face persecution from the Taliban due to the nature of their employment according to MPs.
Data collated from about 50 Labour MPs shows they are trying to help more than 7,000 people escape according to the Guardian – with a true tally of all 650 MPs likely to be much higher than this number, despite the assessment made by Mr Raab on Wednesday.
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So what will happen to these UK nationals stranded in Afghanistan?
Fung Siu, Principal Economist, Asia at the Economist Intelligence Unit, said those stranded in Afghanistan will need to continue to attempt to seek routes out of the country.
She told Express.co.uk: “Some of those who want to leave Afghanistan will try the land route as the main airport is closed and is likely to remain closed for weeks if not months.
“The Taliban are reluctant to accept technical assistance from foreign entities to help to operate the airport. Qatar and Turkey are coordinating their efforts on this front and are in talks with the Taliban but these talks could take some time to conclude.
“It is worth noting that most borders are closed and that all official border crossings have been instructed to allow Afghanis through who have valid visas, but they may still be turned away.”
Britain and its allies will be forced to continue efforts to evacuate nationals despite the passing of the August 31 deadline.
US troops and other allied forces withdrew completely on Monday, but this does not mean support for nationals in the country will end.
UK analyst Matthew Oxenford told Express.co.uk: “Militarily and diplomatically, the ability for the UK to act in Afghanistan without US support is severely limited, so any action would focus on the resettling Afghans who wish to leave.
“The UK is in the process of granting residency to Afghans that worked with the UK military.
“There is a significant internationalist contingent within the Conservative party that is in favour of accepting refugees that fear persecution in the UK.
“However, the Conservative Party is divided on this issue with a key bloc of the party’s base that is wary of increased immigration of any form, and so the total number is likely to be small, likely below 10,000.”
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