Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has rejected claims a British request may have contributed to the risk of a terror attack at Kabul airport – as senior Conservative MPs hit out at a “reprehensible” blame game over last week’s suicide bombing.
On Thursday, 13 American troops, two British men and at least 169 Afghans were killed in the attack in Afghanistan’s capital for which ISIS-K, an offshoot of Islamic State, has been held responsible.
It has now been suggested that the UK evacuation effort from Kabul airport may have contributed to the attack.
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According to a report by the Politico website – based on notes from meetings of US officials in the Pentagon last week – the US decided to keep Abbey Gate at Kabul airport open longer in order to allow the UK to continue evacuating, despite warnings of an imminent “mass casualty event”.
It was at Abbey Gate where ISIS-K focussed Thursday’s attack.
However, Mr Raab told Sky News it was “just not true” that the UK was “pushing to leave the gate open”.
“We coordinate very closely with the US, in particular around the ISIS-K threat that we anticipated – although tragically were not able to prevent,” the foreign secretary said.
“It is certainly right to say we got our civilian staff out of the processing centre by Abbey Gate.
“But it is just not true to suggest, other than securing our civilian staff inside the airport, that we were pushing to leave the gate open.
“In fact, and let me just be clear about this, we were issuing changes of travel advice before the bomb attack took place and saying to people in the crowd, about which I was particularly concerned, that certainly UK nationals and anyone else should leave because of the risk.”
Meanwhile, senior Tories pushed back at attempts to “brief against the UK” over the terror attack.
Former Conservative leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith told LBC Radio that US President Joe Biden was “responsible for those decisions which… were critical in the course of the events that we’ve seen unfolding”.
“I do think now to attempt to try and brief against the UK on the suicide bombing is reprehensible really,” he added.
“Because, you know, if the American government or the American military were very serious about shutting the gates, they would have shut the gates.
“I think this idea that it was down to the idea that the British were begging them to keep them open, I think is a little bit mean-spirited on them and probably wrong.”
Tobias Ellwood, the Conservative chairman of the House of Commons defence select committee, told The Times: “I fear this is more to do with an unhelpful blame game… it shows how much of a low ebb the special relationship has sunk to.”
And a government source quoted by the same newspaper said: “The US is having to explain the total mess that has been the evacuation.
“There’s clearly some hard briefing going on.”
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