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UK's Raab says intelligence was Afghan capital would not fall this year

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By Reuters
UK foreign minister says intelligence was Afghan capital would not fall this year
UK foreign minister says intelligence was Afghan capital would not fall this year   -   Copyright  Thomson Reuters 2021
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LONDON -Britain’s foreign minister Dominic Raab said the intelligence assessment was that it was unlikely Kabul would fall this year as he defended Britain’s withdrawal from Afghanistan after the Taliban swept across the country much more quickly.

Britain, like the United States, failed to predict how quickly the Afghan government would fall, meaning it had not made sufficient preparation for the chaos that would follow when the Taliban seized power.

In an emergency session of parliament’s foreign affairs committee to discuss the crisis in Afghanistan, Raab said the central assessment of Britain’s intelligence service was that the Taliban would only consolidate its control of the country in the months after western countries had evacuated their troops.

“The central proposition was that, given the troop withdrawal by the end of August, you would see a steady deterioration from that point, and that it was unlikely Kabul would fall this year,” Raab told the committee of lawmakers.

“That doesn’t mean we didn’t do contingency planning or game-out or test the other propositions. And just to be clear, that’s something that was widely shared – that view – amongst NATO allies.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has faced calls to sack Raab in recent weeks after he went on holiday in Crete as the Taliban advanced on Kabul and amid claims that thousands of emails from people seeking help to leave Afghanistan had gone unread.

Defending his handling of the crisis, Raab said he had had more than 40 meetings or calls where Afghanistan was on the agenda between March and end of August.

Britain’s last military flight left Kabul late on Saturday, ending a chaotic two weeks in which soldiers helped to evacuate more than 15,000 people from the crowds who descended on the capital’s airport, desperate to flee the country.

Raab said he would travel to the region, including visiting Pakistan for the first time as foreign minister, later on Wednesday to discuss the crisis.