Afghanistan news – live: Leaks show Raab warned of Taliban’s rapid advance in July as unknown number stranded

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Foreign secretary Dominic Raab was warned more than three weeks before the Taliban took control of Kabul that the group’s advances would cause a collapse of local security forces and a major humanitarian crisis, according to a leaked report.

The Principal Risk Report paper, seen by The Independent, was presented to the Foreign Office in July – 24 days before the Taliban entered Afghanistan’s capital and at least two weeks before Mr Raab set off for a holiday in Crete.

“Peace talks are stalled and US/Nato withdrawal is resulting in rapid Taliban advances,” the report said. “This could lead to the fall of cities, collapse of security forces, Taliban return to power, mass displacement and significant humanitarian need. The embassy may need to close if security deteriorates.”

A Foreign Office spokesperson insisted that it was “simply wrong and misleading to suggest this document is in any way at odds with our detailed assessments of the situation in Afghanistan or our public position throughout the crisis”.

Mr Raab, who faced mounting calls to resign, was confronted with the report at a Commons Foreign Affairs Committee meeting, during which he claimed intelligence failings led the UK to believe Kabul “would not fall in 2021”.

He also said that he “not be confident at all” in the number of British citizens still stranded. Pushed to specify a figure, he eventually conceded it was likely “in the low hundreds”.

Read More

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Woman journalist who made history after interviewing Taliban spokesperson flees Afghanistan

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Key points

  • Leaked report shows Dominic Raab warned in July of rapid Taliban advance

  • UK intelligence suggested Kabul would not fall ‘this year,’ says Raab

  • Foreign secretary dismisses holiday questions as ‘party-political’

  • Raab admits he does not know how many people left in Kabul

22:28 , Andy Gregory

That’s it for the liveblog today, thanks for following here.

My colleagues will likely be back tomorrow morning with more rolling updates on the situation in Afghanistan.

For now, you can find our latest output on Afghanistan here.

Or simply keep scrolling to read the day’s events as we reported them.

07:45 , Sam Hancock

Hello, and welcome to The Independent’s rolling coverage of the Afghanistan crisis. Stay tuned as we bring you the latest updates with foreign secretary Dominic Raab set to face tough questions from fellow MPs during an emergency meeting of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee.

An Afghan interpreter who rescued Joe Biden in 2008 left behind

05:55 , Maroosha Muzaffar

An Afghan interpreter who helped rescue then-senator Joe Biden and two others in 2008 has been left behind in Afghanistan as the last US troops left the country.

He was identified by just his first name Mohammed and was quoted by The Wall Street Journal as saying: “Hello Mr President: Save me and my family. Don’t forget me here.”

Mr Mohammed and his wife and four children are currently in hiding from the Taliban.

WSJ reported that his attempts to get out of Afghanistan were caught up in bureaucracy over years.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki, responding to the report, thanked the Afghan interpreter and said: “We will get you out. We will honour your service.”

Taliban were allegedly ‘instrumental’ in protecting American lives

06:03 , Maroosha Muzaffar

The Taliban were allegedly “instrumental” in trying to save Americans from a possible terrorist attack at the airport.

Less than 24 hours before the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Taliban stopped a bus that was headed to the Kabul airport saying it might be rigged with bombs, an unidentified US citizen who was on the bus, told NBC, who first reported the news.

The US citizen was on the bus with his six daughters, when Taliban fighters stopped it at the Panjsher Pumping Station just outside the airport.

The militants asked everyone to get off the bus.

The US citizen and his family hid in a nearby drainage ditch until the Taliban gave them the all-clear.

A senior congressional aide familiar with the account was quoted as saying: “The Taliban were absolutely instrumental. Without pulling that bus over, there could have been an attack at the airport that could have killed people, including Americans.”

Afghan athlete Hossain Rasouli makes Paralympics debut after evacuation

06:23 , Maroosha Muzaffar

Afghanistan athlete Hossain Rasouli made his Paralympics debut after being evacuated from Kabul in a “major global operation” last week.

He was one of the two Afghan athletes who were flown out of Kabul as the Taliban seized control of the country.

Rasouli’s opponents at the Tokyo Paralympics “couldn’t help but feel joy” on seeing him compete as the 26-year-old finished last in the T47 long jump final.

He had reached Tokyo on Sunday but was late to participate in his favoured 100m event.

Mr Rasouli had to have his left hand amputated after a mine explosion.

His fellow Afghan colleague Zakia Khudadadi, 23, will compete on Thursday in the women’s K44 taekwondo -49kg weight category.

Pakistani UN mission calls for constructive engagement of international community in Afghanistan

06:32 , Maroosha Muzaffar

Pakistan’s permanent mission to the United Nations on Tuesday called for “continued constructive engagement” of the international community in Afghanistan.

“Pakistan is working closely with the regional countries as well as members of the international community for achieving lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan. We have been calling on the international community to stay engaged with all relevant parties and to respond to the current situation in a careful and a calibrated manner, taking into account the prevailing ground realities in Afghanistan,” said a spokesperson.

The statement added: “We believe that continued constructive engagement of the international community is vital toward ensuring the success of ongoing efforts for achieving an inclusive political set-up; seeking continued cooperation in the process of evacuation; as well as addressing the human rights and humanitarian situation in Afghanistan.”

Pakistan has evacuated over 10,000 nationals and staff of foreign embassies, United Nations and other international organisations, as well as media personnel.

Retired US general says America’s return to Afghanistan is ‘inevitable’

06:47 , Maroosha Muzaffar

A retired three-star US general has warned the US will “inevitably” return to Afghanistan.

In an interview with the Daily Mail, the former senior military leader who was not identified and who briefed multiple presidents in his role, said the Taliban will create a new threat to America that will “eventually require us to invade again.”

“I think it’s inevitable that we’ll be back in Afghanistan before long,” he said. “You’ll have a narco state run by Islamic terrorists. This is not a good development to peace and stability in the world,” he added.

The former senior military leader also questioned “how in the world can we stand back, with a nuclear-capable Pakistan, and Iran working towards a nuclear weapon, and Afghanistan in the middle wedged between the two? The borders are quite blurred there as well as far as populations moving.”

He added: “This is unbelievable to me that the US and NATO are going to have no on-the-ground bases in that region. That region is bordered on the West by Iran, bordered on the East by Pakistan, bordered on the North by China and Russia, and we will have nothing on the ground. No eyes, no ears, no logistics and intelligence bases.”

Dominic Raab prepares for grilling by MPs

07:49 , Sam Hancock

At around 2pm (BST) on Wednesday, Dominic Raab will face tough questions at an emergency meeting of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee over his failings in the Afghanistan crisis.

Ahead of the beleaguered Mr Raab’s appearance, former foreign secretary Jack Straw told The Independent that the failure of Joe Biden’s administration to warn the UK of its planned withdrawal of military forces would never have happened under the Blair and Brown governments in which he served. He blamed Mr Raab for failing to uphold Britain’s “special relationship” with the States.

It comes after Mr Raab on Tuesday flatly denied that the UK pressured US troops to keep open a gate open at Kabul airport where a suicide bombing claimed by Isis-K killed more than 170 Afghan civilians and 13 US troops.

Get all the details from our political editor Andrew Woodcock here:

Raab rapped over ‘distant’ relationship with US as he prepares for grilling by MPs

UK in talks with Taliban over Britons left behind – No 10

07:54 , Sam Hancock

The UK government is in talks with the Taliban over the safe passage of British nationals out of Afghanistan, Downing Street has said, reports Conrad Duncan.

“The prime minister’s special representative for Afghan transition, Simon Gass, has travelled to Doha and is meeting with senior Taliban representatives to underline the importance of safe passage out of Afghanistan for British nationals, and those Afghans who have worked with us over the past 20 years,” a spokesperson for the PM said.

It came after the foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, said that the number of British nationals left behind in Afghanistan was in the “low hundreds” – although he was unable to give a “definitive” figure.

UK in talks with Taliban over British nationals in Afghanistan, No 10 says

Afghan resettlement depends on local integration, says Home Office minister

08:05 , Sam Hancock

Afghan resettlement minister Victoria Atkins acknowledged resettling thousands of Afghan refugees in the UK could add extra pressure on the already strained housing stock.

“I want to be straight with people - this is a very, very difficult challenge and we’re very, very aware of the pressures on the housing market and housing lists already,” she told Sky News this morning. “That’s why we’ve announced this top-up fund to help councils find larger properties for Afghan families.”

However, the Home Office minister said she was confident the newly-announced Operation Warm Welcome could be achieved if local councils and communities were open to allowing refugees the chance to “integrate into our societies”.

She continued: “This policy will succeed if we welcome and integrate people into our societies and we get them settled into accommodation, help their children get into schools, get them registered at GPs and so on, and then they can begin to pay back into our society.”

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Tory MP claims Taliban’s ‘ideology is the same’ as always

08:20 , Sam Hancock

The Taliban have not changed, according to Tory MP Nusrat Ghani, who has been campaigning for the government to get British nationals left behind in Afghanistan back home.

Ms Ghani, the MP for Wealden, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme earlier: “Their ideology is the same. They’re engaged in a never-ending war against unbelievers and apostates, and their one desire, and their one desire only, is to establish a caliphate that has no room for women and girls.”

She said she was on the phone on Tuesday to a female parliamentarian who has been vocal in pushing back the Taliban’s ideology and fighting against extremism and corruption.

“She’s been told that she will be killed if the Taliban get hold of her,” Ms Ghani said, adding that the woman - a university teacher when the Taliban were last in power - is in her third safe place and desperately running out of food and money.

“She survived and went back to Afghanistan and helped rebuild the country, and she’s been abandoned, and if women like her are all killed there won’t be any women left in Afghanistan to take up the positions that the Taliban is promising them,” Ms Ghani told the BBC.

Ghani has been a vocal critic of the government’s alleged failings over Afghanistan’s fall to the Taliban (Wikimedia Commons)
Ghani has been a vocal critic of the government’s alleged failings over Afghanistan’s fall to the Taliban (Wikimedia Commons)

Former Afghan reintegration adviser condemns UK’s ‘lack of clarity’

08:29 , Sam Hancock

Former adviser to the Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration programme, Dr Marissa Quie, has criticised the British government for failing to be upfront about a number of issues still at play in the Afghanistan crisis.

“There’s lack of clarity about the number of people left behind,” she told Sky News, “especially vulnerable women. I think there was a lot of lack of clarity about what the Arap programme was.”

The Arap scheme is the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy which was set up during the UK’s evacuation mission.

Dr Quie continued: “We now need to think about what is going to happen to those [left behind]. They’ve been told to make their way to borders where they can cross into neighbouring countries, such as Pakistan, but for women ... that is a very dangerous journey.”

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Full transcript of Biden’s address on US leaving Afghanistan

08:45 , Sam Hancock

In case you missed it last night, here’s a full transcript of Joe Biden’s remarks yesterday about the US evacuation from Afghanistan.

During the relatively short speech, the US president launched his most defensive rhetoric yet about the decision to leave Kabul and the issues countries faced along the way.

Some of his closing remarks included::

“It’s time to end the war in Afghanistan. As we close 20 years of war and strife and pain and sacrifice, it’s time to look to the future, not the past, to a future that’s safer, to a future that’s more secure, to a future that honours those that served and all those who gave what President Lincoln called their last full measure of devotion.

I give you my word with all of my heart, I believe this is the right the decision, a wise decision, and the best decision for America.”

Full transcript of Biden’s remarks on the US withdrawal from Afghanistan

Stoke-on-Trent questions local authorities not helping Afghans

08:56 , Sam Hancock

The Conservative leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council has called out other local authorities for not “doing more” to help help resettle Afghan evacuees.

“How could you not watch those scenes on the television over the last few weeks and put forward over this?” Abi Brown told Radio 4’s Today programme earlier.

“But the question I would like to ask the other local authority leaders, 66 per cent who haven’t nominated is - why can’t they?”

Outlining the “challenges” Stoke-on-Trent faces, Ms Brown said: “If I can [do more], with the challenges that we have, [due to] one in 250 people in Stoke-on-Trent [being] an asylum seeker, and as a result of the pressure around that we have withdrawn from the asylum dispersal system, what’s their excuse?”

Home Office minister Victoria Atkins later told the radio show she was “confident” more councils would join up to resettlement schemes, but admitted only a third had made firm offers so far.

Afghan refugees crossing Channel will not be resettled, warns minister

09:07 , Sam Hancock

Thousands of Afghans with ties to the UK missions in Afghanistan remain trapped in the country, reports indicate, having been able to get on evacuation flights before the final withdrawal of western troops from the country.

But Afghan resettlement minister Victoria Atkins insisted that desperate Afghans who flee to neighbouring countries and later attempt to come to the UK via the Channel would be subject to the government’s “crackdown” on the boat crossings.

Ms Atkins told BBC Breakfast: “This is the great challenge we are facing in other parts of our immigration system – trying to stop these gangs exploiting people, vulnerable people, by bringing them over in small boats over the Channel.”

My colleague Adam Forrest has more on this:

Afghan refugees crossing English Channel will not be resettled, says minister

PM boasts about UK’s ‘proud history of helping those in need’

09:17 , Sam Hancock

Boris Johnson has used the newly-announced Operation Warm Welcome to remind people of Britain’s rich history of helping others.

“Our country has a proud history of helping those in need,” he said in a tweet. “We will prove that once again through our support for the Afghan people we’ve welcomed to the UK.’’

It comes moments after a Home Office and Afghan resettlement minister appeared on BBC Breakfast to insist that desperate Afghans who flee to neighbouring countries and later attempt to come to the UK via the Channel, and other “illegal methods”, would not be granted resettlement status.

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UK councils ‘scrambling’ to meet needs of Afghans

09:27 , Sam Hancock

Further to claims made by Stoke-on-Trent’s City Council leader, here’s our social affairs correspondent May Bulman with an exclusive councils struggling to incoming refugees’ needs.

The Home Office’s plan to resettle Afghan refugees has come under fire from local councils who say they have been left “scrambling” to meet the urgent needs of new arrivals due to a “lack of clarity” from central government,” May writes.

A letter from Labour ministers to the home secretary and the housing minister, seen by The Independent, has also warned that the government must “step up and play its role in providing national coordination, leadership and support” to local authorities receiving Afghan arrivals, warning of “substantial challenges” for these refugees if it fails to do so.

In some cases, houses procured for evacuated families have remained empty for more than a week despite the Home Office saying the process would take one day, councillors said. Meanwhile, charities say that the time Afghans spend in hotels should be as “short as possible”, as living in this setting can have a detrimental impact on their mental health.

Read her full report here:

Councils ‘scrambling’ to meet needs of Afghans amid ‘lack of clarity’

Pope mistakenly quotes Putin to berate West’s Afghan war

09:32 , Sam Hancock

Pope Francis has criticised the West’s 10-year occupation of Afghanistan as an outsider’s “attempt to impose democracy”, but did so thinking he was quoting Germany’s Angela Merkel when in fact he was using the words of Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

In a radio interview aired on Wednesday, Pope Francis was asked about the new political map taking shape in Afghanistan after the US and its allies withdrew from the Taliban-controlled country. The pope said he would answer using a quote that he attributed to the German chancellor, who he described as “one of the world’s greatest political figures”.

“It’s necessary to stop the irresponsible policy of enforcing its own values on others and attempts to build democracy in other countries based on outside models without taking into account historic, ethnic and religious issues and fully ignoring other people’s traditions,” the pope said, using his own translation into Spanish.

However, the quote was actually said last month by Mr Putin, the Russian president, during a meeting he had with Ms Merkel, the German chancellor, on a visit she took to Moscow.

During the meeting on 20 August, Mr Putin reportedly criticised the West over Afghanistan, saying that the Taliban’s rapid sweep over the country has shown the futility of Western attempts to enforce its own vision of democracy. Ms Merkel, on the other hand, urged Russia to use its contacts with the Taliban to fight for Afghan citizens who helped Germany to be allowed to leave Afghanistan.

The interview with Spain’s Cadena COPE took place at the Vatican late last week. The radio station, owned by Spain’s Catholic bishops’ conference, aired the talk on Wednesday and told the AP news agency that its content had been vetted by the pope himself.

During the interview, the pope also said that “all eventualities were not taken into account” in the departure of Western allies from Afghanistan.

Radio station claims the pope vetted programme’s contents before it aired (AP)
Radio station claims the pope vetted programme’s contents before it aired (AP)

‘Questions remain’ about govt’s resettlement scheme, Nandy says

09:50 , Sam Hancock

Labour’s Lisa Nandy has given an insight into what her Tory counterpart can expect to be asked today during his 90-minute grilling from MPs on the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee.

Speaking to Sky News, the shadow foreign secretary said there remained “very big unanswered questions about what the government is proposing” for Afghan refugees.

“The Arap scheme opened months ago and yet very little is in place,” Ms Nandy said, speaking from Wigan, before adding that local councils had been promised “millions of pounds” but nothing had materialised.

“I think it’s right to say that the Home Office has been caught on the back foot by something that the government should have been planning for, for the last 18 months when the US told us they were going to withdraw from Afghanistan.”

Dominic Raab is set to face cross-party MPs at 2pm where it is thought he will be asked a range of questions, including some on the the above but also about his alleged personal failings - most notably the allegation that he decided to remain on a family holiday in Greece as Afghanistan fell to the Taliban.

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EU to plan new military evacuation methods after Afghanistan

10:03 , Sam Hancock

The EU must take action to be better prepared for military evacuations of its citizens, EU Council president Charles Michel said on Wednesday.

His remarks came days after the end of a chaotic evacuation mission in Afghanistan, as Afghan and non-Afghan people attempted to flee the country.

“In my view, we do not need another such geopolitical event to grasp that the EU must strive for greater decision-making autonomy and greater capacity for action in the world,” he told the Bled Strategic Forum in Slovenia.

Western nations scrambling to get their citizens out of Kabul after the Taliban’s hasty takeover were dependent on the US military to keep the airport running during airlifts, he reminded those in attendance.

Michel suggested countries around the world should use the Afghanistan crisis as a learning opportunity (AFP via Getty Images)
Michel suggested countries around the world should use the Afghanistan crisis as a learning opportunity (AFP via Getty Images)

Afghan man warns UK over trusting Taliban in ongoing talks

10:15 , Sam Hancock

An Afghan seeking evacuation to the UK with his young family has said he does not trust the Taliban in their talks with UK officials about allowing people to secure “safe passage” out of Afghanistan.

Sayed, whose name has been changed to protect his identity, lived in the UK for eight years but returned to Afghanistan a decade ago due to family issues, where he now lives with his young children and pregnant wife.

Asked about the talks between UK authorities and the Taliban, he told the PA news agency: “Twenty years before I’m not trust Taliban, now I’m not trust Taliban.

“Taliban looking [for people] like me ... we know that if someone [spends] time in the foreign country then there is a kind of risk for them from Taliban.”

He finished by saying: “I’m so scared, life in Afghanistan now so dangerous.”

It comes amid an announcement by Downing Street that Boris Johnson’s special representative for Afghan transition, Simon Gass, is in Qatar meeting with senior Taliban representatives to discuss the “safe passage” of British nationals out of Afghanistan.

Florida diner bans Biden supporters in wake of Kabul attack

10:25 , Sam Hancock

Angie Ugarte, the owner of the DeBary Diner in Volusia County, Florida, is no longer welcoming supporters of Joe Biden to her business over the deaths of 13 US Marines in a suicide bombing at Kabul airport.

“If you voted for and continue to support and stand behind the worthless, inept and corrupt administration currently inhabiting the White House that is complicit in the death of our servicemen and women in Afghanistan, please take your business elsewhere,” the sign, posted on Thursday, read.

The decision to leave Afghanistan was made last year by former US president Donald Trump, following a deal he reached with the Taliban. Mr Biden chose to uphold that deal when he moved into the White House at the beginning of 2021.

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar reports:

Florida diner owner asks Biden supporters to stay away after Kabul attack

UK and Taliban talks ‘must tackle terrorism’ – former SIS chief

10:33 , Sam Hancock

Some more now on the talks going on between the UK and Taliban officials in Doha. Sir John Sawers, former chief of the Secret Intelligence Service, said the conversations must be used to tackle terrorism in Afghanistan.

He told Sky News: “Will they be prepared, as they were back in 2001, to allow terrorist groups like al-Qaeda to operate out of Afghanistan?

“It’s absolutely clear that any international engagement with the Taliban and support for the Afghan people will depend upon the Taliban closing down operational space for terrorist groups inside the country.”

He added: “What these talks will be doing is to try to get them in the right place for them to realise it’s in their interest to close down any space and any opportunity for terrorist groups to operate out of Afghanistan.”

Afghan interpreter who helped rescue Biden left behind in Kabul

10:50 , Sam Hancock

A man who had saved Joe Biden in 2008, then a senator, when he was stranded in a remote Afghan valley after a snowstorm, has asked the US president to help him flee Afghanistan, now under the Taliban’s rule, writes Arpan Rai.

In a message for Mr Biden, the interpreter, identified only by his first name Mohammed, told The Wall Street Journal: “Hello Mr President: Save me and my family. Don’t forget me here.”

Thirteen years ago, Mohammed, then 36, worked as an interpreter for the US Army which had rushed to help three senators – Mr Biden, John Kerry and Chuck Hagel – who were stranded after their helicopter force-landed due to a storm in the region. Mohammed joined the US army motorcade which safely evacuated the three key US senators and braved more than 100 firefights in the valley.

Read the full report here:

Afghan interpreter who helped rescue Joe Biden from valley in Afghanistan left behind

UK embassy sent ‘Afghans to Kabul airport hours before suicide bombing’

11:10 , Sam Hancock

UK embassy officials in Afghanistan told Afghans to go to Kabul airport’s Abbey Gate entrance only hours before a deadly suicide bombing attack in the area, a report suggests.

The British embassy instructed some people trying to flee the country to “use the Abbey Gate [near] to the Baron Hotel” last Thursday, the day of the attack, emails seen by BBC’s Newsnight show.

The UK government said it was now investigating the emails to work out how messages “against this advice” could have been sent to Afghans, writes Adam Forrest.

UK embassy ‘told Afghans to go to Kabul airport hours before bomb attack’

Public support for Afghan refugees ‘really positive,’ says charity

11:36 , Sam Hancock

A charity supporting Afghan refugees said public support has been “really positive” as people fleeing the Taliban continue to arrive in the UK.

Fahim Zazai, who runs the Afghan Community and Welfare Centre in Walsall, which helps asylum seekers across the West Midlands, said: “When refugees were arriving, we found out most of them had come with few belongings and just clothes on them, so we had to ask for donations from the public.

“We received lots of donations from different organisations and individuals. It has been really positive. We received more than we asked for and it’s growing.”

The 42-year-old, who came to the UK as an Afghan refugee 20 years ago, also told the PA news agency: “That is why I understand how the people arriving here are feeling and that is why I have to help.

“I don’t want to see other people in a similar situation to when I first came.”

Where do the Taliban get their money and weapons from?

11:40 , Sam Hancock

The swift Taliban military onslaught that saw the militant group take over the whole of Afghanistan in a matter of weeks revealed how wealthy it has become since the ousting of its regime in 2001.

In the past two decades, the insurgents have run a state-like economy in the areas they controlled. They relied on various fundraising sources, such as drug trafficking and other criminal activities, extortion and taxes, charitable donations and foreign assistance.

“The Taliban operates a classic ‘territory controlling’ financial model; in other words, it earns the bulk of its funds from the people and businesses in areas that it controls,” Tom Keatinge, Director of the Centre for Financial Crime and Security Studies at the Royal United Services Institute in London, told The Independent’s Ahmed Aboudouh.

So how much exactly does the group raise every year? And how? Ahmed takes a closer look.

Where do the Taliban get their money and weapons from?

Afghan withdrawal ends belief in Western superiority, claims former national security adviser

11:55 , Sam Hancock

The withdrawal from Afghanistan has disproven the popular belief that the West can impose its values on other parts of the world through force, Sir Mark Lyall Grant has said.

Sir Mark, a former national security adviser and permanent representative to the UN, told Sky News that the “End of History” theory that became popular after the fall of the Soviet Union “has been thrown on its head for a number of different reasons”.

That includes the rise of China, military interventions in Iraq and elsewhere and the financial crisis of 2008, he said.

“All of those have undermined general narrative of the West that we have a superior economic and social system and all countries will fall in line with us,” he said. “I don’t think that is certain anymore. I do think we have to fight for our value, but what Afghanistan has shown ... is that we cannot impose our values military around the world.”

He added: “If we want those values to become universal...we will have to do that by inspiration.”

It comes after Pope Francis today criticised the West’s 10-year occupation of Afghanistan as an outsider’s “attempt to impose democracy”, but did so thinking he was quoting Germany’s Angela Merkel when in fact he was repeating the words of Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

What is the difference between the Taliban and Isis?

12:06 , Sam Hancock

As concerns around Afghanistan’s terror threat level increase, The Independent has analysed the key differences between the Taliban and Isis, which are both Sunni Islamist extremist groups.

The most significant, of course, is that the two forces are actually enemie who have fought bitterly since 2015 when Isis formed the Islamic State-Khorasan Province (ISKP) in Afghanistan at a time when it was first seeking to extend its geographical reach beyond Iraq and Syria.

So, what else sets them apart? Joe Sommerland reports.

What is the difference between the Taliban and Isis?

Questions facing Raab as he prepares to be grilled by MPs

12:20 , Sam Hancock

The government has been strongly criticised for not anticipating the Taliban’s swift takeover after US and Nato troops started to withdraw from Afghanistan earlier this summer. As recently as July, Boris Johnson told MPs that the hardline Islamist group had “no military path to victory”.

One critic of the government’s response is General Lord Richard Dannatt, a former head of the British army, who told Times Radio on Sunday that ministers were “asleep on watch” and “should have done better”.

Mr Raab has come under particular scrutiny for being on holiday in Crete while Kabul fell and for not starting evacuations of vulnerable Afghans sooner. He has rejected calls for his resignation and the PM has spoken out in support of him.

But what questions remain? And what is the foreign secretary likely to be asked in today’s emergency session of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee? Rory Sullivan takes a closer look.

Dominic Raab to be grilled by MPs over Kabul chaos

Watch: Taliban and UK open talks over ‘safe passage’ for people out of Afghanistan

12:37 , Joanna Taylor

The Taliban and UK officials are in talks over how to secure “safe passage” out of Afghanistan for British nationals and Afghan allies who are still trying to leave the country.

Sir Simon Gass, the PM’s special representative for Afghan transition, has travelled to Qatar according to Downing Street and is meeting with “senior Taliban representatives” to stress the importance of allowing people to leave Afghanistan.

The Labour Party’s Lisa Nandy has said that there are “thousands” still stuck in the country despite the government’s recent evacuation efforts.

Watch here:

Taliban and UK open talks over ‘safe passage’ for people out of Afghanistan

Bill to provide aid for American civilians returning from Afghanistan becomes law

12:45 , Joanna Taylor

President Joe Biden on Tuesday signed a bill aimed at providing aid to US citizens returning from Afghanistan into a law, amid criticism from Republicans over America’s chaotic withdrawal from Kabul.

Under the “Emergency Repatriation Assistance for Returning Americans Act,” $10 million in emergency funds per year for two consecutive years will be provided for US citizens returning from Afghanistan to settle back into their lives.

Continue reading:

Bill to provide aid for American civilians returning from Afghanistan becomes law

First days of life under Taliban rule: ‘My daughter hasn’t gone to school in two weeks’

12:59 , Joanna Taylor

“My 10-year-old daughter hasn’t gone to school in last two weeks,” a former government employee who wished to remain unnamed told The Independent. “They are not welcome in the school at this point. The principal told us to not send her.”

“The school says they have to make arrangements to divide the class between girls and boys,” he added.

Read more here:

First days of life under Taliban: ‘My daughter hasn’t gone to school in two weeks’

Amnesty calls on govt to extend resettlement policy

13:14 , Sam Hancock

Amnesty International has called on the UK government to extend its approach to resettling Afghan refugees to others fleeing persecution.

While former Afghan staff and family members will be granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK under the government’s Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (Arap), the charity says that they’re “imposting prologued uncertainty” on other refugees.

Steve Valdez-Symonds, refugee and migrant rights director at Amnesty International UK, said: “While ministers are doing the right thing here, they are doing the exact opposite with the Nationality and Borders Bill ... they’re imposing prolonged uncertainty on many refugees who are also entitled to stay because of the persecution from which they’ve fled.”

Taliban supporters hold mock funeral for Western countries

13:25 , Joanna Taylor

Coffins draped in the flags of the US and NATO allies were a part of a mock funeral carried out by Taliban supporters in the eastern city of Khost in Afghanistan to celebrate the end of western presence in the region.

Videos being shared widely on social media on Tuesday showed supporters also used British and French flags to drape the coffins, while some showed off their guns at the mock funeral.

“August 31 is our formal Freedom Day. On this day, American occupying forces and NATO forces fled the country,” Taliban official Qari Saeed Khosti said in an interview with local television station Zhman TV.

Continue reading:

Taliban supporters hold mock funeral for western countries

Putin repeats criticism of US' 20-year war with Afghanistan

13:45 , Sam Hancock

Vladimir Putin has again criticised the US for its involvement in Afghanistan, claiming that the nation’s 20-year military presence in the country achieved “zero”.

The Russian president said on Wednesday that for 20 years the US military in Afghanistan “was trying ... to civilise the people who live there, to introduce their norms and standards of life in the broadest sense of the word, including the political organisation of society”.

He continued: “The result is sheer tragedies, sheer losses, both for those who were doing that - the US - and more so for the people who live in Afghanistan. A zero result, if not negative.”

The Russian president added that “it’s impossible to impose something from outside” and that “if someone does something to someone, they should draw on the history, the culture, the life philosophy of these people in the broadest sense of the word, they should treat their traditions with respect”.

Moscow, which fought a 10-year war in Afghanistan that ended with the Soviet troops’ withdrawal in 1989, has made a “diplomatic comeback” in the country as a mediator over the past few years, according to a report by the AP news agency.

The fresh claims come after Mr Putin used a meeting with German chancellor Angela Merkel last month to criticise the West over Afghanistan, saying that the Taliban’s rapid sweep over the country showed the “futility” of Western attempts to enforce its own version of democracy.

Putin has long criticised the US for occupying Afghanistan (Sputnik)
Putin has long criticised the US for occupying Afghanistan (Sputnik)

Raab pictured arriving at Downing Street

13:53 , Sam Hancock

Dominic Raab was pictured earlier today as he arrived at Downing Street, only a short time before he is due to be grilled by cross-party MPs on the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee.

It is expected the foreign secretary will be quizzed about the mistakes both he and his government are accused of making during the Afghanistan crisis.

Mr Raab personally caused upset when reports, first published in The Daily Mail, suggested he refused to take phone calls about the imminent fall of Kabul to the Taliban, because he was on a family holiday in Crete.

Raab is pictured arriving at Downing Street (AFP via Getty Images)
Raab is pictured arriving at Downing Street (AFP via Getty Images)

Cross-party questioning of Raab begins

14:08 , Sam Hancock

The emergency session of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee has begun.

Tom Tugendhat, the group’s chair, kicked off the proceedings by thanking foreign secretary Dominic Raab for attending the meeting and immediately asking Mr Raab how many of his ministers were currently abroad.

Raab gives evidence to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee (parliamentlive.tv)
Raab gives evidence to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee (parliamentlive.tv)

Raab to travel to Afghanistan

14:14 , Sam Hancock

Dominic Raab has said that once today’s session is up, he will be “going to the region”, meaning the one around Afghanistan.

He did not specify where and why.

We’ll bring you more updates on this if MPs return to the point.

UK intelligence suggested Kabul would not fall ‘this year’

14:20 , Sam Hancock

Intelligence that the UK had suggested Kabul would not fall this year, Dominic Raab has told MPs.

Though he later admits planning began in June for the “contingency” of an evacuation.

“From April, right the way through to the evacuation, we’ve done everything we can to stand up an excellent response,” Mr Raab tells the Foreign Affairs Committee, adding: “I’m proud of the work my team has done.”

Raab fails to address why coalition was not made with EU allies

14:26 , Sam Hancock

The foreign secretary is now being grilled about his failure to form a coalition with other allies on the ground when it first became clear the US wanted to withdrawal from Afghanistan.

After claiming the “numbers don’t add up” without the US, MPs challenged Dominic Raab and asked why an attempt was not made to form a new coalition with the UK’s “European allies”.

There “wasn’t any viable alternative coalition,” Mr Raab responds.

MPs push Raab on details of his Greek holiday

14:35 , Sam Hancock

More from Dominic Raab’s questioning session now. MPs are pushing the foreign secretary on why the travel advice to Afghanistan only changed on 6 August for British people when US military had highlighted Taliban’s “strategic momentum” weeks earlier on 21 July.

Mr Raab responds this “isn’t quite true” before conversation quickly turns to his much-disputed holiday.

Asked when he left the UK for his holiday to Greece, Mr Raab said: “I’ve given a statement on this already, in which I said with hindsight I wouldn’t go on holiday again, but I refuse to engage in this fishing expedition...”

Labour MP Chris Bryant, now questioning, asks why Mr Raab “can’t understand” why the British public needs to know details about his trip “considering the prime minister, the deputy prime minister - yourself - and the parliamentary under-secretary were all on holiday at a time of international crisis”.

Raab admits he does not know how many people left in Kabul

14:45 , Sam Hancock

Having admitted there was a failure in intelligence, Dominic Raab also said he could “not be confident at all” in the number of British citizens left behind in Afghanistan.

Asked to specify a figure, Mr Raab repeated he “could not say with total confidence”.

Prompted to respond to the much-circulated figure of there being 100-250 eligible people still on the ground, the foreign secretary still refused to give even an estimate.

Instead, he said, the Foreign Affairs Committee should ask the Ministry of Defence or defence secretary Ben Wallace about this.

Categories of people eligible to settle in UK outlines by Raab

14:57 , Sam Hancock

Dominic Raab earlier summarised the three categories of people in Afghanistan eligible to settle in Britain: those who are British nationals, those who have shown loyalty to the UK, and an “asylum-related” group “based on international law”.

Asked why there was no triage system and why these categories are dealt with by different government departments, he said: “I think we’re doing everything we can, and the proof is in the 17,000 [people] that since April we have secured safe passage for back to the UK.”

MPs ask Raab if Queen ‘in danger’ due to portrait being left behind

15:05 , Sam Hancock

MPs questioning Dominic Raab have asked if he believes the Queen is in danger due to the Taliban finding her portrait, which was left behind in the British embassy.

“What went so badly wrong that we left behind not only documents identifying Afghans associated with the British embassy, but a portrait of our own monarch?” Labour MP Neil Coyle asked Mr Raab.

A shocked foreign secretary responded: “Was a portrait of the Queen left behind? I wasn’t aware of reports saying that.”

The committee told him it was, pointing to reports that the Taliban said they would “protect” it until the UK recognised the Taliban as Afghanistan’s leaders.

After some back and forth, Mr Raab conceded that there would be “full review” into, specifically, why documents identifying Afghans were left behind at the UK’s embassy in Afghanistan.

Raab dismisses holiday questions as ‘party-political’

15:13 , Sam Hancock

Talk has quickly turned to Dominic Raab’s holiday again. The SNP’s Stewart Malcolm McDonald, having said he “wasn’t interested” in asking about the holiday, engaged in an intense line of questioning about the trip.

After consistently asking Mr Raab “when did you go on holiday?”, Mr McDonald said: “This is ridiculous. Just answer the question, because it applies to your movements and the Taliban’s advance on Kabul, when did you go on holiday?”

Mr Raab again refuses to answer and dismisses it as “party-political” line of questioning.

The SNP MP later asked Mr Raab if he had “ever considered resigning” following calls for him to in recent weeks, to which Mr Raab replied: “No, I considered getting on with the job.”

No of UK officials processing applications in Kabul ‘peaked at 20’

15:16 , Sam Hancock

LBC Radio’s Ben Kentish reports the following from the Committee hearing:

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Raab avoids question comparing shift patterns in London and Kabul

15:26 , Sam Hancock

Dominic Raab has been asked if he believes he was operating the same “24/7” shift pattern that those on the ground in Kabul were at the time of the crisis.

“Are you content you were working the same 24/7 shift pattern in London that were being carried out in Kabul? Or are there any areas of the rota that you’d say [could be improved]?” the Committee’s chair Tom Tugendhat asked.

The foreign secretary said his department were running a three-shift rota pattern but admitted that “like any operation, there are lessons to be learned”.

The SNP’s Stewart Malcolm McDonald later chimed in to ask if Foreign Office employees had annual leave cancelled to support the mission.

Despite Mr Raab saying this had not happened, his SNP opponent responded: “I think many would think that if all military leave was cancelled on 23 July it is a bad idea for yourself, the prime minister and several other officials in the FCDO, the Home Office and the MoD to take breaks at that time.”

Watch: Taliban celebrates ‘Independence Day’

15:29 , Sam Hancock

The Taliban celebrated its first full day without US soldiers in the country, while the remaining Afghan citizens were left questioning what the future holds.

Taliban fighters fired their guns and fireworks into the air during “Independence Day” celebrations in the Afghan capital.

In between celebrations, the group reiterated their pledge on Tuesday to bring peace and security to the country after decades of war.

Watch it here:

Watch: Taliban celebrates ‘Independence Day’ amid questions about Afghanistan’s future

Tweet surfaces claiming Raab flew to Crete on 8 August

15:41 , Sam Hancock

After Dominic Raab today refused to answer - seven times in a row - when he flew to Crete, a tweet has surfaced of someone claiming to have seen the foreign secretary on their flight to Crete on Sunday 8 August.

If true, according to the House of Lords Library’s timeline of the Taliban offensive, by this point the following had already occurred when Mr Raab jetted off:

“During the first ten days in August, the Taliban was reported to have committed several high-profile killings. This included murdering the head of the Afghan government’s media centre. This followed an assassination attempt several days earlier of the Afghan’s acting defence minister.

By 8 August, the Taliban had carried out a sweeping offensive through northern Afghanistan in a bid to encircle the capital Kabul. Kunduz City, an area in northern Afghanistan which has routes to major cities including Kabul, was reported to have been largely in insurgent control by this date.”

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Raab: UK will not recognise Taliban as Afghan government

15:46 , Sam Hancock

Dominic Raab has pledged not to recognise the Taliban as the official government of Afghanistan, but added the UK and its allies will “test them and judge them”.

He told the Foreign Affairs Committee: “We will not recognise the Taliban. I believe the US and most of the like-minded G7 countries have all said the same. What we will do is test them and judge them by how they respond.

“I think we will need, as I have said, a much broader caucus of countries involved in trying to resolve this. The United States is going to remain engaged and responsible for what happens next and of course we want to work very closely with them.”

Mr Raab had earlier said Gulf states and Pakistan would need to be involved in future humanitarian and diplomatic efforts in Afghanistan, alongside the Nato allies.

Raab’ to investigate’ Newsnight claims about Abbey Gate

15:57 , Sam Hancock

Asked about a BBC Newsnight report, which claims to have seen emails proving the UK embassy told Afghans to go to Kabul airport’s Abbey Gate before the suicide bombing, Dominic Raab said he needed to probe the matter further.

“We changed our travel advice on the evening of Wednesday 25 August, the night before the attack,” Mr Raab told Labour MP Chris Bryant. “At the same time, we stopped asking British and Afghan nationals to come to the airport. We also moved the civilian team from the Baron Hotel processing centre.”

He continued: “I saw that report about the emails and... I need to investigate it.”

Mr Bryant finished the line of questioning by saying he understood that “in a chaotic situation” messages could be confused.

Watch: Raab admits UK thought Kabul ‘unlikely’ to fall in 2021

16:01 , Sam Hancock

Dominic Raab has admitted the UK government thought it was “unlikely” that Kabul would fall to the Taliban in 2021.

While being grilled by MPs over Britain’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, the foreign secretary also said that only a “steady deterioration” of the situation was expected once troops left in August.

“It was unlikely Kabul would fall this year. That was the central assessment,” Mr Raab said, appearing to confirm there had been an intelligence failure.

Watch the clip here:

Watch: Raab admits UK government thought Kabul was ‘unlikely’ to fall in 2021

Raab agrees to come back for second hearing

16:06 , Sam Hancock

Tom Tugendhat, chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, finished the hearing by thanking Dominic Raab and asking if he would return for another session soon.

“I stand by my judgement that this is the single biggest foreign policy failing since Suez,” he told the meeting.

Responding, Mr Raab said he was “very happy to come back to the Committee” before disagreeing with Mr Tugendhat’s comparison of Afghanistan to the Suez crisis of 1956.

Raab denies phoneline to Foreign Office didn’t work

16:43 , Joanna Taylor

Dominic Raab denied claims that the phoneline for MPs wanting to call the Foreign Office with Afghanistan-related enquiries didn’t work during his hearing.

Labour MP Chris Bryant said: “Every MP I know has had the same experience of not being able to get through.”

Mr Raab responded: “Can I just challenge that... between August 16 and 26 the average waiting time to pick up a call on the MP hotline was under a minute.

“For the same period on the public lines it was a range of between 40 seconds and three minutes 49 seconds.”

Opinion: The people of Afghanistan are paying the price for the hatred and regrets of one man

16:52 , Joanna Taylor

US President Joe Biden says that he will judge the Taliban based on their actions. Let me tell you what he actually means: We don’t care what goes on in Afghanistan. It’s now up to you and your country.

Biden is doing all he can to criticise Donald Trump, claiming that he had no choice but to carry out the Doha Agreement made between the Taliban and the US under the former administration.

But has Biden told the American people that some of the most dangerous terrorists in the world, people who had a role in 9/11 and were later held at Guantanamo Bay, are now leaders of the Taliban? Has the US media reported that international terrorists, those on US intelligence most wanted lists, are now leading prayers in Kabul?

Continue reading:

Opinion: Afghans are paying the price for the hatred and regrets of one man

Afghans face hunger crisis, adding to Taliban’s challenges

17:03 , Joanna Taylor

Food stocks in Afghanistan could run out this month, a senior U.N. official warned Wednesday, threatening to add a hunger crisis to the challenges facing the country’s new Taliban rulers as they endeavour to restore stability after decades of war.

About one third of the country’s population of 38 million is facing “emergency” or “crisis” levels of food insecurity, according to Ramiz Alakbarov, the local U.N. humanitarian coordinator.

Continue reading:

Afghans face hunger crisis, adding to Taliban’s challenges

Raab: British Embassy guards among those left stranded

17:17 , Joanna Taylor

Afghan guards stationed outside the British embassy in Kabul were among those unable to access evacuation flights before, the foreign secretary has confirmed.

Dominic Raab said during a hearing in parliament that some of the guards were “not given permission to enter” the airport.

“We wanted to get some of those embassy guards through but the buses arranged to collect them, to take them to airport, were not given permission to enter,” he told MPs.

London council says it’s ready to welcome refugees

17:29 , Joanna Taylor

Kensington and Chelsea council has said that it is ready to welcome refugees from Afghanistan.

A spokesperson for the London borough said that two hotels have been placed on standby to welcome new arrivals, while four houses for resettling families have been identified.

Cllr Elizabeth Campbell, leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council, said: “We must do what we can, and we must do it quickly. I have made it clear to partners in government that we have accommodation and services, and we stand ready to help. My hope is that others will step in and contribute over the coming weeks.”

The council has called on private home owners and housing associations to “step forward and do their bit”.

Raab discusses ‘safeguarding’ Afghanistan with Indian foreign minister

17:39 , Joanna Taylor

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab says that he has spoken to his Indian equivalent about how to support the people of Afghanistan and stop the country from becoming a “terrorist haven”.

He wrote on Twitter that he and Subrahmanyam Jaishankar are committed to “safeguarding regional stability”.

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What the Taliban’s victory in Afghanistan means for India

17:49 , Joanna Taylor

Delhi had invested heavily in supporting the Afghan government and will now struggle to compensate for the loss of influence in the region with the Taliban in power in Kabul, writes Maroosha Muzaffar.

Read more here:

What the Taliban’s victory in Afghanistan means for India

Pariah no more: World powers warily engage with the Taliban

18:03 , Joanna Taylor

When the Taliban took control of Afghanistan a quarter of a century ago, the group was treated as a pariah by much of the world. It could only convince Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to recognise its government, while Russia, its central Asian allies, Turkey, India and Iran were openly arming and funding its opponents.

But now the Taliban is in the diplomatic driving seat as nations scramble to build ties. On Wednesday, Qatar’s top diplomat urged “engagement” with the Taliban now that it has taken control of Afghanistan.

Continue reading:

Pariah no more: World powers warily engage with the Taliban

Watch: Dominic Raab refuses to answer questions over his holiday while Taliban advanced on Kabul

18:20 , Joanna Taylor

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab repeatedly refused to answer questions on the timing of his holiday to Crete during the Foreign Select Committee.

SNP MP Stewart McDonald and Labour MP Chris Bryant probed Raab over the timing of his holiday plans to compare the dates chronologically to the fall of Afghanistan.

The Conservative MP refused to provide specific details including the date he left the UK and said he “would not have gone away, with the benefit of hindsight”.

Watch here:

Watch: Dominic Raab refuses to answer questions over his holiday while Taliban advanced on Kabul

Dominic Raab asked to consider his position after going ‘MIA’

18:40 , Joanna Taylor

At a hearing on Afghanistan, foreign secretary Dominic Raab was asked to consider his position by Labour MP Claudia Webbe.

Ms Webbe accused Mr Raab of being “missing in action” while the crisis in Kabul unfolded, while the foregin secretary accused Ms Webbe of focussing on the “politics” of this.

Lisa Nandy accuses Raab of being ‘completely out of his depth’

19:00 , Andy Gregory

Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy has accused Dominic Raab as being “completely out of his depth”.

The Labour MP wrote on Twitter that the foreign secretary provided “no answers” on his handling of the crisis in Afghanistan and showed “no humility” when addressing MPs.

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Dominic Raab attacked by Chris Bryant over his holiday during Afghan crisis

19:08 , Andy Gregory

Here’s more from Dominic Raab’s appearance before MPs on foreign affairs select committee.

Labour’s Chris Bryant questioned if Mr Raab was already on holiday on 11 August when the US “said the Taliban were likely to seize the whole country, it was just a question of how long it was going to take.”

The foreign secretary refused to provide the timings of his holiday plans to compare the dates chronologically to the fall of Afghanistan.

Watch: Dominic Raab attacked by Chris Bryant over his holiday during Afghan crisis

Public response to supporting refugees ‘really positive’, charities say

19:22 , Joanna Taylor

British charities aiming to support Afghan refugees have said that the public’s response has been “really positive”.

Fahim Zazai, who runs the Afghan Community and Welfare Centre, said that the West Midlands-based charity had received “more than we asked for”.

“We received lots of donations from different organisations and individuals,” she told PA. “It has been really positive. We received more than we asked for and it’s growing.”

Leaked report shows Raab was warned in July of rapid Taliban advance

19:41 , Joanna Taylor

Dominic Raab has been accused of being “asleep at the wheel” over Afghanistan, after a leaked report revealed he was warned more than three weeks before the fall of Kabul that the swift Taliban advance would cause the collapse of local security forces and a major humanitarian crisis.

The beleaguered foreign secretary was confronted with the internal Foreign Office (FCDO) report at a parliamentary committee, moments after he had assured MPs that the government’s Joint Intelligence Committee believed the Taliban takeover would be slow and that Kabul would not fall into militant hands until next year.

Continue reading:

Leaked report reveals Raab was warned in July of rapid Taliban advance

Pentagon leaders speak to ‘pain and anger’ many service members feel

19:55 , Joanna Taylor

US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley have spoken about how veterans are feeling on the conclusion of the decades-long war in Afghanistan.

Mr Austin, a retired general who served as head of US Central Command and who led troops in Afghanistan, said he knew that the ending of the war had been “difficult days” for many who served. He said that he hoped people would look back at their service with thoughtfulness and respect.

Mr Milley, who has since become a lightning rod for criticism for many on the right, including former president Donald Trump, addressed what he viewed as “pain and anger” among some veterans.

“I commanded troops and I wasn’t born a four-star general,” he said. “My pain and anger comes from the same as the grieving family, the same as the soldiers on the ground.”

Pentagon chiefs speak to ‘pain and anger’ many service members feel after Afghanistan

Republican congressman threatened US embassy staff in bid to get into Afghanistan, officials say

20:17 , Joanna Taylor

A Republican congressman reportedly entered into an altercation with US Embassy officials in Tajikistan because they refused to help facilitate his plan to fly a helicopter into Afghanistan to rescue a family of Americans.

The Washington Post report that congressman Markywane Mullin was angered that US Ambassador John Mark Pommersheim refused to help him move money through Tajikistan to carry out the mission, threatening him and demanding to know the names of the staff who handled his request.

Graig Graziosi has more on the story:

GOP congressman’s Afghanistan rescue plan thwarted by US embassy staff

Opinion: Dominic Raab was quite sure the stable door was closed when he went on holiday

20:29 , Joanna Taylor

If, after the horse had bolted, the stable owner had set up a committee to find out who was responsible for shutting the doors, it would have looked something like Wednesday’s session of the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, said everything had looked secure before he went on holiday, and he was quite happy leaving matters in the hands of subordinates and other departments, and anyway he was working the whole time.

Continue reading from The Independent’s chief political commentator John Rentoul:

Dominic Raab was quite sure the stable door was closed when he went on holiday

US conservative commentator praises Biden for having ‘b***s’ to pull troops from Afghanistan

20:44 , Joanna Taylor

US conservative commentator Ann Coulter praised President Joe Biden for having the “b***s” to pull out of Afghanistan and called former President Donald Trump’s statements on the issue “wuss” and “BS”.

“Trump REPEATEDLY demanded that we bring our soldiers home, but only President Biden had the b***s to do it. Here are a few of Trump’s wuss, B.S. - I mean ‘masterful’ - tweets,” Ms Coulter tweeted on Tuesday and included a screenshot of some of Mr Trump’s Afghanistan statements supporting US troop withdrawal.

“Thank you, President Biden, for keeping a promise Trump made, but then abandoned when he got to office,” she wrote a few minutes earlier.

Read more:

Ann Coulter praises Biden on Afghanistan

Labour call on prime minister to sack Raab

20:55 , Joanna Taylor

The Labour Party has called on the prime minister to sack his foreign secretary Dominic Raab.

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Individuals including shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy and shadow lord chancellor David Lammy have also called on Boris Johnson to fire Mr Raab.

The party has accused the foreign secretary of “excuses, incompetence [and] lack of leadership” after he faced questions about the UK’s response to the crisis in Afghanistan in front of a select committee of MPs.

Government insists allegations over leaked document are ‘wrong and misleading’

21:16 , Andy Gregory

The government has insisted it is “wrong and misleading” to suggest a security document from July warned Afghanistan could fall to the Taliban much sooner than the UK had previously predicted.

The Principal Risk Report paper, seen by The Independent, was presented to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office’s (FCDO) management board 24 days before the Taliban entered Kabul and at least two weeks before Dominic Raab set off for a family holiday in Crete.

It warned: “Peace talks are stalled and US/Nato withdrawal is resulting in rapid Taliban advances. This could lead to the fall of cities, collapse of security forces, Taliban return to power, mass displacement and significant humanitarian need. The embassy may need to close if security deteriorates.”

But an FCDO spokesperson said: “The principal risk register is a standard monthly report for the management board which does not contain intelligence assessments. It is an internal document which sets out potential risks to the organisation for planning purposes including around duty of care to staff.”

They added: “It is simply wrong and misleading to suggest this document is in any way at odds with our detailed assessments of the situation in Afghanistan or our public position throughout the crisis.

“The July document makes clear that our central planning assumption at the time was that the peace process in Afghanistan would run for up to a further six months.”

California school districts warn dozens of their pupils are still stuck in Afghanistan

21:38 , Andy Gregory

More than 30 children schooled in California are stuck in Afghanistan after travelling there to see relatives in the weeks before the Taliban seized power, according to US school districts where they are enrolled.

Officials with three school districts, one in San Diego area and two in Sacramento, said they have been in contact with the families who fear they have been forgotten by the US government.

Nearly all of the children returned to Afghanistan with one or both parents in the spring or early summer to visit relatives. The families travelled on their own to the country and were not part of any organised trips.

Many of the families arrived in America years ago after obtaining special immigrant visas granted to Afghans who had worked for the US government or its military over the past two decades.

Additional reporting by AP

Politics Explained: Has Dominic Raab done enough to keep his job?

21:53 , Andy Gregory

Ever since he packed up his flip flops and headed home from his now infamous holiday in Crete, Dominic Raab has endured resignation calls from the opposition and gossip about demotion at the next cabinet reshuffle, writes Adam Forrest.

Will the foreign secretary be “toast” come Boris Johnson’s next shake-up, as Whitehall sources have suggested?

Raab’s 90-minute grilling by MPs about Afghanistan on Wednesday was the ideal chance to defend himself – but the evasive, prickly appearance managed to raise fresh questions about the handling of the crisis and his own political future.

Has Dominic Raab done enough to keep his job?

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