The foreign secretary was ‘missing in action’ as the situation in Afghanistan escalated, according to reports.
Dominic Raab was advised to not go on holiday as tensions in the country heated up, but he went anyway.
The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) said Mr Raab was returning to the UK on Sunday and was “personally overseeing” the department’s response to the crisis.
Afghanistan is falling to the Taliban at pace after nearly 20 years of UK presence…— Dr Mike Galsworthy (@mikegalsworthy) August 15, 2021
…and our Foreign Secretary, @dominicraab, has decided to stay on holiday.
Seems a bit casual. pic.twitter.com/RcilaMAHtg
However, Labour’s shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy said that his absence during a moment of major international upheaval was unacceptable.
“For the foreign secretary to go AWOL during an international crisis of this magnitude is nothing short of shameful,” Ms Nandy said.
“A catastrophe is unfolding in front of our eyes and while the foreign secretary is nowhere to be seen, hundreds of British nationals are being evacuated and his department is cancelling scholarships for young Afghans.”
British troops are racing against the clock to get remaining UK nationals and their local allies out of Afghanistan following the dramatic fall of the country’s Western-backed government to the Taliban.
Lead elements of 16 Air Assault Brigade were working with US forces to secure Kabul airport to ensure flights can continue as Afghans and foreigners alike scramble to leave.
While the airport has so far not come under attack, there are fears that could change quickly with Taliban insurgents now effectively in control of the capital.
Triumphal fighters were pictured in the presidential palace abandoned by President Ashraf Ghani who fled the country while his forces gave up the city without a fight.
Following a meeting of the Government’s Cobra emergencies committee, Boris Johnson his priority was to get UK nationals and Afghans who had worked with them out of the country “as fast as we can”.
“We are going to get as many as we can out in the next few days,” he said.
Around 4,000 British nationals and eligible Afghans are thought to be in the city and in need of evacuation.
When the Operation Pitting rescue operation, involving 600 troops, was announced at the end of last week, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said it could carry on through the rest of the month.
However the speed of the Taliban advance suggests that there may only be a short window of a few days to get people out.
In a sign of the desperate situation the British ambassador Sir Laurie Bristow was said to be helping the small team of diplomats still in the country to process the applications of those hoping to leave.
There was particular concern for the safety of Afghans who worked with British forces when they were in the country as interpreters and other roles amid fears of reprisals if they fall into the hands of the insurgents.
The Taliban insisted that they were seeking a peaceful takeover of power and were prepared to offer an amnesty to those who had worked with the Afghan government or with foreign governments.
However those assurances were being treated with deep scepticism by many British MPs amid reports of threats to those who remain and their families.
Labour called on the Government to urgently expand the resettlement scheme for Afghans to ensure that none were left behind.