British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has admitted that the UK government did not foresee the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.
Mr Raab added that Britain would have to engage with the Taliban in the future to hold them to account for their actions.
According to him, several nations were “caught off-guard” by the quick and hostile nature of the militant group’s takeover, forcing several Afghans to flee the country.
He added that British intelligence had been tracking what was happening on the ground in Afghanistan “very carefully” after the U.S. decided to reduce its troops in the country.
“The truth is, across the world, people were caught by surprise. I haven’t spoken to an international interlocutor, including countries in the region over the last week, who hasn’t been surprised,” Mr Raab told Sky News. “This has been part and parcel of the withdrawal of Western troops, but it has also been the way and the approach of the Taliban. Of course, it’s been a test for the Afghan security forces. But no one saw this coming. Of course, we would have taken action if we had.”
He defended his decision to return from his holiday when he did, adding he arrived back in Britain as soon as the situation deteriorated and demanded it.
In another interview with BBC Breakfast on Tuesday, Mr Raab said Britain believed the Taliban would attempt to move in later in autumn and in a more gradual manner.
Asked if he would sit down with his counterpart in a Taliban government, the foreign secretary said it would not happen “for the foreseeable future” but added there was some form of communication between the UK and the militant group.
“We’ve always had a dialogue of some sort, either indirectly through third parties or the Taliban’s political commission in Doha,” the UK official noted. “It is important to be able to engage at least in some shape or form to test and to exert as much influence as we credibly, realistically can, and also to try and hold the Taliban to account to the new commitments they made.”
Around 900 armed forces were in Afghanistan, helping to bring British nationals home and secure the safety of selected Afghans. Mr Raab stated that 150 British nationals were flown out on Sunday while 289 Afghan nationals were also taken out last week.