Dominic Raab: Britain Will Not Recognise the Taliban But Sees Need to Have Direct Engagement
09:30 GMT 02.09.2021 (Updated: 15:15 GMT 28.05.2023)
© AP Photo / Matt DunhamDominic Raab
© AP Photo / Matt Dunham
Western powers have been faced with a conundrum in the war-stricken country since the Taliban* retook power in Afghanistan on 15 August. Despite painstaking efforts that saw NATO countries airlift over 122,000 people out of Afghanistan, several hundred individuals still remain stranded in Afghanistan.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has said the UK will not recognise the Taliban, but acknowledged that there is a need to engage with the militant group.
The official made the statement at a press conference in Qatar, which has become a key negotiator with the Taliban. Raab said Britain's priority is to now secure the safe passage of the remaining UK citizens and Afghans who worked with Britain out of Afghanistan. Britain will provide a warm welcome to those Afghans who wish to come to the United Kingdom, the minister said.
"Our commitment on the part of the United Kingdom to Afghanistan remains. We need to adjust to the new reality," Raab told reporters.
During his visit to Qatar Dominic Raab held talks with his Qatari counterpart Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani. The two discussed ways to prevent a humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, preservation of regional stability as well as ways to ensure that the Taliban honours its commitments to a more inclusive government and not harbouring terrorist groups.
Reopening of Kabul Airport
The most important topic on the agenda of Thursday's talks is the reopening of the Kabul Airport. As mentioned earlier, western countries were unable to evacuate all of their citizens and allies in Afghanistan before the 31 August deadline, with several hundred people still remaining stranded in the war-ravaged nation.
Dominic Raab said Britain will hold talks with regional countries on how to secure a safe passage out of Afghanistan via third countries.
UK Special Representative for the Afghan Transition Simon Grass has already travelled to Qatar, where he met with senior Taliban representatives. The Qatari foreign minister said Doha had begun negotiations with the militant group as well as Turkey on a potential restart of flights from Kabul.
Did Britain Know About Taliban Takeover?
Dominic Raab's visit to Qatar came after the minister was grilled by members of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee on Britain's withdrawal from Afghanistan. Like its partners in the United States, the government of Boris Johnson has faced harsh condemnation over what critics describe as a botched pullout of forces and Afghan allies.
Addressing MPs, Mr Raab defended the government's actions, saying Britain was "caught out" by the speed of the Taliban's takeover of the capital Kabul. However, chairman of the committee Tom Tugendhat read a leaked government report dated from 22 July, which said that there was a "very real danger" of cities and security forces collapsing under the Taliban offensive following the start of the withdrawal of US forces.
The Foreign Office said that the leaked report was a standard dispatch, which didn’t contain intelligence assessments.
Qatar's Involvement in Dialogue With the Taliban
Although Doha does not recognise the Taliban as the leadership of Afghanistan, the country has housed the group's political wing since 2013 and encouraged dialogue with the group. Doha also played a key role in peace talks between the United States, the West-backed government in Kabul, and the Taliban. These negotiations culminated in the peace agreement the Trump administration signed with the group.
Under the deal, the White House promised to reduce the number of troops within 135 days, followed by a complete NATO withdrawal by May 2021. The terrorist group, for its part, promised to take part in peace talks with the West-backed Afghan government, something the Taliban militants have long refused to do, and agreed that Afghanistan would not harbour terrorists and prevent any individuals in the Central Asian nation from attacking the US and its allies.
*The Taliban is a terrorist organisation banned in Russia and many other nations.