Dominic Raab went on the attack today as he was backed by Boris Johnson amid a fierce Westminster blame war over the chaotic Afghanistan withdrawal.
The under-pressure Foreign Secretary blasted ‘irresponsible’ leaks against him as No 10 denied reports that he is facing a humiliating demotion at the next Cabinet reshuffle.
Mr Raab has been the subject of numerous anonymous briefings in recent weeks as his opponents claimed he was slow to respond to the deteriorating situation because he was on holiday.
But he lashed out at ‘buck passing’ today – as he sought to blame the Ministry of Defence and Home Office for delays in rescuing UK nationals and former allies trapped in Kabul.
His comments came as he prepares for a grilling in front of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee tomorrow, with even his own allies hearing a ‘fast and brutal’ fall from grace if he is sacked.
Mr Raab told Sky News: ‘Anyone that is toddling off to the Sunday Times or any other newspaper at a time of crisis, including the evacuation which has been two weeks running, giving buck-passing briefings either at me or the FCDO is, frankly, not credible and it is deeply irresponsible.’
He also insisted the response to the crisis had been a ‘team effort’ across Whitehall after critics had singled out the Foreign Office for failings.
‘Again, I come back to this thing, those giving anonymous briefings to newspapers during the evacuation I’m afraid have very little credibility and it is pretty obvious, transparent buck passing,’ he added.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman today told reporters: ‘There are no plans for any reshuffle. The Prime Minister has full confidence in his Foreign Secretary.’
Dominic Raab today launched a furious fight back against his critics as he accused them of ‘buck passing’ during the Afghanistan crisis
The Foreign Secretary has been widely tipped for the sack at Boris Johnson’s next Cabinet reshuffle over his handling of the UK’s withdrawal from Kabul
Ex-MI6 boss: Taliban victory in Afghanistan will ‘inspire’ terrorists to attack the West
A former head of MI6 today warned the Taliban’s victory in Afghanistan could ‘inspire’ terrorists to launch attacks on the West amid a growing backlash at Joe Biden’s handling of the US withdrawal from the country.
Sir John Sawers said there is ‘no doubt’ the Taliban’s success is being ‘celebrated’ by extreme Islamist groups and ‘that raises the risk of them being inspired to more violence in Western countries’.
Sir John said the chaos in Afghanistan means terror groups are likely to move there because they will have ‘some operating space’, with the US and UK now in a ‘much weaker position’ to combat the threat they pose.
His comments came as the former professional head of Britain’s armed forces launched a direct attack on Mr Biden over the West’s Afghanistan ‘defeat’, as the transatlantic alliance was placed under further strain.
Lord David Richards, an ex-chief of the defence staff, accused the US President and other politicians of letting down Britain and their Afghan allies in their rush to escape Kabul.
The peer, who served in Afghanistan, said ‘we’ve been defeated by the Taliban’ as he attacked America and the UK Government over their handling of the pull out.
The Foreign Office has been accused of leaving hundreds of emails from people stuck in Afghanistan unopened during the evacuation operation.
But Mr Raab suggested many of the emails were actually the responsibility of the MoD and the Home Office.
He said: ‘The FCDO was set up, up and running, before the Arap scheme (Afghan relocations and assistance policy) had an MoD online portal.
‘When the Home Secretary announced the resettlement scheme, again we got a lot of emails, a surge of emails, when they set up a bespoke hotline, that eased some of the burden.
‘So we were getting a lot of cases coming through that needed to be sifted and triaged on, we did that as best we could.
‘But most of those, the two email accounts people are talking about are the Arap cases which were led by the MOD, not by the FCDO, and also the special cases which ultimately was a Home Office responsibility. But it was a team effort.’
A reshuffle is not thought to be imminent but reports have suggested that Michael Gove, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, is being lined up to replace Mr Raab.
One of Mr Raab’s allies suggested to The Times that the Foreign Secretary had failed to build support among colleagues.
‘I think when a fall from grace happens, it’s fast and it’s brutal,’ they said.
‘People forget what politics is about. It’s about getting people to help you do the heavy lifting. You saw this with Theresa May. The people who are really successful are the ones who can motivate a team.
‘There’s a whole load of people in politics who think that spending time talking to colleagues in the tea room is below them. It’s not regarded as important work.’
A senior Government source had told the newspaper yesterday that they believed Mr Raab will be ‘toast’ in the next shake up of Mr Johnson’s top team.
Mr Raab has been accused of being slow to engage with the Afghanistan crisis and was criticised for failing to return early from a family holiday in Crete in the days leading up to the fall of Kabul.
A senior official in the Pakistani government claimed to the Sunday Times that Mr Raab did not make a single phone call to his Afghan or Pakistani counterparts in the six months before the crisis.
The official said Mr Raab ‘just didn’t care’ because he ‘thought Afghanistan was yesterday’s war’.
Former Conservative leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith described criticism of Mr Raab as ‘childish and pathetic’.
Speaking on LBC Radio, Sir Iain said: ‘A lot of the briefing against Dominic Raab is rather childish and pathetic, during the course of a crisis where you want this thing settled.
‘You don’t want to have a debate about whether somebody should be there or not there, as long as they’re doing their job and you want them to get on with that job.’
Source: Daily Mail UK