/Dominic Raab arrives in Pakistan to announce £30m aid

Dominic Raab arrives in Pakistan to announce £30m aid

Dominic Raab has arrived in Pakistan to announce a £30million aid package as he continues the push to secure safe passage for Britons and Afghans stuck in Afghanistan.

The Foreign Secretary will hold talks with his Pakistani counterpart, Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi, during a two-day visit and the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Mr Raab is scheduled to have ‘interaction at the leadership level’.

Mr Raab arrived in Pakistan after Boris Johnson insisted the UK needs to ‘level’ with the Taliban and make the group understand the need to allow people to leave Afghanistan.

The Prime Minister signalled further engagement between the West and the Taliban could be dependent on whether Britons and Afghans are allowed to leave the country.

The Foreign Secretary will hold talks with his Pakistani counterpart, Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi, during a two-day visit. Pictured, Mr Raab talks to staff at a resettlement programme for Afghanistan refugees in Doha Qatar

The Foreign Secretary will hold talks with his Pakistani counterpart, Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi, during a two-day visit. Pictured, Mr Raab talks to staff at a resettlement programme for Afghanistan refugees in Doha Qatar

The Foreign Secretary will hold talks with his Pakistani counterpart, Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi, during a two-day visit. Pictured, Mr Raab talks to staff at a resettlement programme for Afghanistan refugees in Doha Qatar

Mr Johnson also claimed it had been ‘clear for many months’ that the situation in Afghanistan could change ‘very fast’, but insisted the UK Government’s response to the Taliban surge to power was not ‘spur of the moment’.

More than 8,000 former Afghan staff and their family members eligible under the Afghan relocations and assistance policy (Arap) were among the 15,000-plus people evacuated by the UK since August 13.

But thousands of Afghans who helped British efforts in the nation and their relatives, as well as other vulnerable civilians, are feared to have been left behind.

During a visit to Qatar on Thursday, Mr Raab said evacuations may be able to resume from Kabul airport ‘in the near future’ as he expressed a need for direct engagement with the Taliban.

During a visit to Qatar on Thursday, Mr Raab said evacuations may be able to resume from Kabul airport 'in the near future'. Pictured, Mr Raab with his Qatari counterpart heikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani on Thursday

During a visit to Qatar on Thursday, Mr Raab said evacuations may be able to resume from Kabul airport 'in the near future'. Pictured, Mr Raab with his Qatari counterpart heikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani on Thursday

During a visit to Qatar on Thursday, Mr Raab said evacuations may be able to resume from Kabul airport ‘in the near future’. Pictured, Mr Raab with his Qatari counterpart heikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani on Thursday

He was using a visit to the region to build a coalition with nearby nations to ‘exert the maximum moderating influence’ on the Taliban as they ‘adjust to the new reality’ of the group being in power.

On Thursday evening, Mr Raab tweeted that he spoke to Tajikistan foreign minister Sirojiddin Muhriddin about ‘how our countries can help maintain stability in the region, and tackle the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan’.

Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Mr Raab was visiting on Thursday and Friday.

In a statement, the ministry said: ‘Foreign minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi will hold official talks with Secretary of State Dominic Raab.

‘The talks will cover the evolving situation in Afghanistan and bilateral matters. Foreign Secretary Raab is also scheduled to have interaction at the leadership level.’

It added: ‘The visit will reinforce the current momentum in high-level exchanges between the two countries and help strengthen bilateral co-operation on a range of issues.’

While Mr Raab sought to make progress in the region, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office confirmed details of how a £30 million UK aid package will be used.

It is expected £10million will be made available immediately to humanitarian organisations, such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), to despatch supplies to the Afghan borders.

Countries predicted to experience a significant increase in refugees will also receive £20million to help with processing new arrivals and to provide essential services and supplies.

Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani and Mr Raab hold a joint news conference in Doha, Qatar, September 2

Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani and Mr Raab hold a joint news conference in Doha, Qatar, September 2

Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani and Mr Raab hold a joint news conference in Doha, Qatar, September 2

Mr Raab said: ‘They will provide Afghans who have left everything behind with essential kit offering shelter and basic sanitation as they seek to pick up the pieces of their lives.’

Pakistan, Tajikistan, Iran, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan are among the countries where Afghans are expected to flee in their tens of thousands following the Taliban takeover. 

Mr Raab, who is visiting the region, said: ‘It is vital that we help those fleeing Afghanistan and do not allow the crisis there to undermine regional stability.

‘That’s why these life-saving supplies are so important. They will provide Afghans who have left everything behind with essential kit offering shelter and basic sanitation as they seek to pick up the pieces of their lives.

‘This aid demonstrates the UK’s commitment to shoulder our humanitarian responsibility and support those countries who will face the greatest demands for those displaced.’

Prime Minister Boris Johnson last month announced an increase in aid to Afghanistan to £286 million, amid a policy to cut spending on overseas assistance.

A briefing from the House of Commons Library showed the UK sent £290 million of aid to Afghanistan in 2019, and at the Afghanistan Conference, held in Geneva in November 2020, the UK Government pledged £155 million in aid for 2021.

Mr Johnson last month announced an increase in aid to Afghanistan to £286million, amid a policy to cut spending on overseas assistance.

A briefing from the House of Commons Library showed the UK sent £290 million of aid to Afghanistan in 2019, and at the Afghanistan Conference, held in Geneva in November 2020, the UK Government pledged £155 million in aid for 2021.

It comes after Mr Raab was criticised for holidaying in Crete as the Taliban surged to power last month.

On Wednesday, Mr Raab told MPs the ‘most likely’ outcome foreseen by the Joint Intelligence Committee ‘and the military’ after the withdrawal of foreign troops was ‘a steady deterioration from that point and it was unlikely Kabul would fall this year’.

On Thursday, Mr Johnson told reporters: ‘I think it’s been clear for many months that the situation could go very fast and that’s been part of the intelligence briefing.

‘There have also been suggestions that the Afghan national defence force might hold on for longer. But logically you can see what happened.

‘Once people felt in Afghanistan, once people in the Afghan army felt that they were no longer going to be getting that American air cover, then I think the logic for them became really to end their resistance and so things did go faster, but you can see to the extent of the planning that’s been put into Op Pitting.’

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