“With the benefit of hindsight I would have been back earlier, but we were all surprised by the scale and the pace of the collapse of the situation,” Raab told Sky News, denying reports that Prime Minister Boris Johnson had ordered him home two days before he arrived back.
He said claims that he was paddle-boarding as Kabul fell were “nonsense,” and that the sea was closed that day.
He told the BBC, “I based my family on the beach … precisely so I could get back to the apartment, engage in the [emergency] Cobra meetings, engage with my emergency response team at the Foreign Office, engage in the international engagement I needed to.”
Some opposition MPs had called for Raab’s resignation after it emerged that he was on holiday as the crisis unfolded, and that he had delegated a phone call to Afghan foreign ministers.
The Liberal Democrats have called on Raab to publish any advice he received from either Foreign Office officials or the prime minister relating to permission to go on holiday.
The Foreign Office later said that Raab was able to handle priority issues while on holiday.
Unable to Receive a Call
Initially, the Foreign Office said that the foreign secretary had other calls that were higher in priority, so it was delegated to other staff.
The Foreign Office later revealed that the call was never made because the situation deteriorated rapidly and Raab was unable to receive a call.
When questioned on BBC Radio 4’s “Today” programme about claims that his department asked him to return home on Friday, Aug. 13, Raab said: “I was not asked by my officials. I was not directed home.”
Raab said he did not want to add more media speculation. “What I can tell you is that from that period I was engaged from a hotel room, my family was on the beach, not me. I checked in on them episodically, but the idea that I was lounging on the beach is just nonsense.”
The foreign secretary also faced questions on when the last evacuation flights will be leaving Kabul, after U.S. President Joe Biden yesterday ruled out troops staying beyond the Aug. 31 deadline.
Raab said that the time frame was in the hands of military planners, adding, “We will use every hour and day we’ve got to maximise that throughput to get as many of those residual cases out.”
Former defence chief Lord David Richards said on Aug. 25 that there were only two days remaining for the evacuation of civilians before the process of a military exit, according to The Daily Telegraph.
However, Richards said he was sure that British troops would continue to “sneak others in who arrived late along with their own people.”
“Almost all” single-nationality UK citizens who wanted to return are now out of Afghanistan, according to Raab.