Afghanistan news - live: Raab heads to Doha for rescue talks as Taliban set to name supreme authority

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British foreign secretary Dominic Raab has flown to Doha to discuss the safe passage of British nationals and Afghan allies from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.

The minister’s trip comes after he was grilled by MPs on the foreign affairs select committee on Wednesday afternoon over his handling of the crisis in Afghanistan.

While Mr Raab meets Qatari officials, who have a close relationship with the Taliban leadership, Foreign Office minister Lord Ahmad will head to Tajikistan to talk about the safety of those fleeing over the border from Afghanistan.

This comes as Taliban are expected to form a government and to name Sheikh Haibatullah Akhundzada — the group’s top religious leader — as the country’s new supreme authority.

The US, the EU and others have said formal recognition of this government depends on its action, with Victoria Nuland, US undersecretary of state, saying: “We’re not going to take them at their word, we’re going to take them at their deeds.”

Meanwhile, a senior UN official has warned that food stocks in Afghanistan could run out “as soon as this month.”

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Key Points

  • Report warned Dominic Raab in July of fast advance of Taliban

  • Visa program ‘not designed’ to accommodate evacuated Afghan allies, says Pentagon chief

  • Pentagon leaders ‘wary’ of working with the Taliban

  • Afghanistan could run out of food stocks by the end of this month, says official

  • Taliban set to name Afghanistan’s supreme authority

Williamson defends Raab over Afghanistan

09:08 , Rory Sullivan

Education secretary Gavin Williamson has attempted to defend his colleague Dominic Raab amid criticism of his handling of the Afghanistan crisis.

The former defence secretary said Mr Raab “has been working tirelessly” in leading the UK’s response to the Taliban’s takeover.

However, he somewhat watered down this defence by saying that he, unlike the foreign secretary, did not have time for a proper holiday this summer.

He told LBC radio: “As education secretary you tend not to have holidays.”

“I got a couple of days in Scarborough to see my mum and dad, so that was very nice.”

Raab to ask about the reopening of Kabul airport

08:52 , Rory Sullivan

As previously mentioned, Dominic Raab is in Qatar for talks on Afghanistan.

The foreign secretary is expected to discuss the potential reopening of Kabul airport.

Here’s Adam Forrest with more details on Mr Raab’s trip:

Dominic Raab flies to Qatar to discuss Afghanistan evacuations

UK to discuss restoring diplomatic presence in Kabul ‘quite soon’, says former British ambassador

08:38 , Rory Sullivan

A discussion will soon be had about the possibility of the UK having a diplomatic presence in Kabul, a former British ambassador to Afghanistan has said.

Sir Nick Kay told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We’ve got an embassy now set up in Doha for Afghanistan, but it won’t be a substitute in the end for having people on the ground who can advocate for human rights, support civil society there on the ground, liaise with others for humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan.

“And also crucially oversee what we hope will be a safe passage programme arranged with the Taliban.”

He added that Britain needs “to be humble” and learn lessons from the past few months as well as from the last 20 years in Afghanistan.

NRF says it is ‘fighting terrorism alone'

08:15 , Rory Sullivan

The National Resistant Front of Afghanistan (NRF) continues to fight against the Taliban from its stronghold in the northern Panjshir valley.

In recent days, the Taliban has launched offensives on three fronts there but the hardline Islamist group suffered “heavy casualties” and all its attacks were repelled, a NRF spokesperson told the BBC.

They added that the valley has been “impregnable” for the past half century, with the Red Army unable to conquer it during the Soviet-Afghan war.

The spokesperson also said that the NRF was not just fighting against the Taliban but also terrorists who had travelled to the country from abroad.

“It’s a war against terrorism that we’re fighting all alone without anyone helping or assisting us,” they said.

EU to develop common defence after chaotic Afghanistan withdrawal

07:59 , Rory Sullivan

The European Union will develop its common defence after the chaotic withdrawal of western troops from Afghanistan, the bloc’s foreign policy chief said.

Josep Borrell added that a rapid reaction force would be part of this initiative.

Speaking to EU defence ministers in Slovenia, he said: “Sometimes there are events that catalyze history, that create a breakthrough, and I think that Afghanistan is one of these cases.

“We have to look for something more operational. The need for more, stronger European defence is more evident that ever.”

Report warned Dominic Raab in July of fast advance of Taliban

07:35 , Maroosha Muzaffar

A leaked report has revealed that the British foreign secretary, Dominic Raab was warned more than three weeks before the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban.

He has been accused of being “asleep at the wheel” over Afghanistan, the report said.

Mr Raab had assured MPs during a parliamentary committee that the central assessment produced by the government’s Joint Intelligence Committee was that the “Taliban takeover would be slow and the Afghan capital would not fall into the militant group’s hands until next year.”

Meanwhile, the cabinet minister left for the region near Afghanistan on Wednesday to talk about the rescue of those that were left behind in Kabul.

The Principal Risk Report paper - seen by The Independent 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.”

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

Visa program ‘not designed’ to accommodate evacuated Afghan allies, says Pentagon chief

06:51 , Maroosha Muzaffar

US defence secretary Lloyd Austin said the special immigrant visa programme (SIV) “perhaps should be looked at going forward”, citing the long process involved in clearing them to come to the US.

“The SIV program is obviously not designed to accommodate what we just did in evacuating over 100,000 people,” he said.

“For the type of operation that we just conducted, I think we need a different type of capability,” he added.

The US airlifted more than 124,000 people since the Taliban took over Afghanistan.

President Joe Biden said the US will help rescue those who assisted the war effort.

Meanwhile, thousands of Afghan SIV applicants trying to escape the country are still in Afghanistan.

Pentagon leaders ‘wary’ of working with the Taliban

06:34 , Maroosha Muzaffar

The Pentagon’s top two leaders on Wednesday expressed wariness in continuing to work with Taliban leaders in Afghanistan and said they are working with them on “a very narrow set of issues.”

Defense Secretary Lloyd J Austin III told reporters: “We were working with the Taliban on a very narrow set of issues. I would not make any leaps of logic to broader issues. It’s hard to predict where this will go in the future with respect to the Taliban.”

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark A Milley also expressed his reservations. “This is a ruthless group. Whether or not they change remains to be seen. In war, you do what you must.”

Meanwhile, US officials believe fewer than 200 Americans remain in Afghanistan.

Many thousands of Afghans who assisted the US over the past two decades, however, still remain in the country.

Afghanistan can run out of food stocks by the end of this month, says official

06:08 , Maroosha Muzaffar

A senior UN official has warned food stocks in Afghanistan could run out “as soon as this month.”

Ramiz Alakbarov, deputy special representative and humanitarian coordinator in Afghanistan said while the UN was determined to deliver, “more funding is needed to reach millions who depend on aid to survive.”

He said: “It is extremely important that we prevent Afghanistan from descending into a further humanitarian catastrophe by taking the necessary steps to provide essential items which this country needs right now. And that is to support food, health and protection services, and non-food items, to those who are in extreme need.”

Mr Alakbarov pointed out that more than a third of Afghan citizens are not getting enough to eat and that more than half of those below five years of age are “suffering from extreme malnutrition.”

He warned that the country could run out of food stocks by the end of September and hence “for us to keep the current demand, we need at least $200 million only for the food sector, to be able to provide food to the most vulnerable.”

Taliban all set to name Afghanistan’s supreme authority

05:52 , Maroosha Muzaffar

The Taliban are all set to form an Islamic government in Afghanistan and are planning to name Sheikh Haibatullah Akhundzada – the group’s top religious leader – as the country’s new “supreme authority”.

It, however, remains unclear exactly when the Taliban will make the announcement and whether it will include a more inclusive council, The New York Times reported.

Afghanistan’s new regime under the group is going to face huge challenges, including humanitarian and economic crises.

In fact, a senior UN official has said that Afghanistan might face food shortage by the end of this month.

A senior Taliban official said the announcement may come as soon as Thursday.

It was reported that Sheikh Haibatullah’s “supreme authority” will be a theocratic role similar to that of Iran’s supreme leader.

British foreign secretary to head to the region near Afghanistan for rescue talks

05:39 , Maroosha Muzaffar

British foreign secretary Dominic Raab is heading “to the region” around Afghanistan to talk about the rescue of those left behind in the country’s national capital Kabul.

The cabinet minister, however, did not reveal where exactly he was going for security reasons.

“We’re always very careful about signaling travel movements because of the security implications. But I can tell you I’m leaving after this committee to go to the region,” Mr Raab said.

Reports indicated he might be heading to Pakistan for the talks.

Defence secretary Ben Wallace had described the evacuation efforts as “Dunkirk by WhatsApp”, with officials scrambling to contact Afghans who worked with the British military.

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