LONDON (Reuters) -British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab defended his response to the fall of Afghanistan on Friday, dismissing as inaccurate media reports that he failed to help evacuate local translators who had worked for Britain because he was on holiday.
“The whole of government has been working tirelessly over the last week to help as many people evacuate from Afghanistan as possible,” Raab said, adding that he had been focused on events at the airport.
He said on Twitter that he was making his statement in response to “inaccurate media reporting over recent days”.
Raab and Prime Minister Boris Johnson came under heavy criticism earlier this week from lawmakers from their own party who described events as a failure of leadership and moral duty.
The Daily Mail newspaper then reported that Raab had been too busy while on vacation to call his Afghan counterpart to ask for help in evacuating local translators who had worked with the British government and who were in danger from the Taliban.
The opposition Labour Party has said Raab should resign or be sacked for his “unforgivable failure”.
Asked on Friday whether he still had confidence in Raab, Johnson replied: “Absolutely, and I can tell you that the whole of the government has been working virtually round the clock … to do what we can … to deal with a situation that has been long in gestation.”
In his statement Raab said he had been advised to call the Afghan foreign minister by his office last Friday but “this was quickly overtaken by events”.
“The call was delegated to a minister of state because I was prioritising security and capacity at the airport on the direct advice of the director and the director general overseeing the crisis response,” he said.
“In any event, the Afghan Foreign Minister agreed to take the call, but was unable to because of the rapidly deteriorating situation.”
(Reporting by William James, Kate Holton and Michael Holden; Editing by William Schomberg, Kirsten Donovan)