Raab hits back at ‘flawed’ criticism of Afghanistan evacuation

Raab claims Foreign Office ‘did not put pets before people’ in response to whistleblower claims.

Former foreign secretary Dominic Raab has claimed the Foreign Office id not put the lives of pets before those of people during the Afghanistan evacuation effort, in light of a slew of revelations from Raphael Marshall, a 25-year-old former desk officer, who has told the Foreign Affairs Select Committee of his experience of the “dysfunctional” crisis this summer.

Marshall claims that the Prime Minister instructed the evacuation of the pets belonging to Pen Farthing’s Nowzad charity, despite the FCDO saying that they were ineligible. He said that this decision endangered British troops and used capacity that could have been used by Afghan evacuees nominated by cabinet ministers.

Mr Raab, now Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Secretary, told Sky News today: “That’s just not accurate. We did not put the welfare of animals above individuals.”

“I am not accusing anyone of lying,”  he went on: “I am just correcting the facts.”

Raab admitted to BBC Breakfast that those working on the evacuation earlier this year dealt with “huge operational challenge given pressures on the ground”, but 

He denied Marshall’s claims that he was routinely working alone explaining: “I constantly checked we had enough resources.

“I appreciate that Raphael was doing a job under difficult circumstances himself at a relatively junior level in London but the real pressures [were] on the ground… it was the challenge and difficulty of ascertaining facts on the ground that was the biggest single pressure.”

He argued that “sifting through emails” did not compare to “the far bigger challenge” on  the ground in Kabul. 

Raab dismissed Marshall’s allegations that junior staff had to handle life or death decisions during the crisis, telling Sky News: “I don’t accept that characterisation. I regularly checked that we were properly resourced. But the challenge of course with all of these things was the verification of the facts on the ground.”

“I think the inherent challenge of getting factual questions in relation to undocumented people applying for the three different schemes that were available – that is inherent. I don’t think having extra staff in London would have particularly made that easier. The challenge was deciphering the facts on the ground, as well as the second operational challenge, which was making sure we could get to the airport in Kabul, safe passage, given the very difficult conditions there.”

He complained that fellow Tory MP Tom Tugendhat’s criticism of the evacuation was  “flawed” and “at odds with the facts”. 

Tugendhat, who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee is conducting an inquiry into the British withdrawal from Afghanistan. 

Mr Tugendhat said: “These failures betrayed our friends and allies and squandered decades of British and Nato effort.”

Mr Raab told BBC Breakfast earlier today that the Foreign Office was “looking at these cases with compassion, with sensitivity”, emphasising  “we got 15,000 people out in just two weeks”.

“The facts speak for themselves… this criticism feels rather dislocated from pressures of the situation,” he went on.