Britain's envoy to Afghanistan 'repeatedly warned' on Taliban threat

Britain’s ambassador to Afghanistan ‘repeatedly warned’ Foreign Office that the country could fall to the Taliban quickly… before Dominic Raab went on holiday to Crete

  • Cables from the UK’s ambassador to Afghanistan warned of imminent collapse
  • Sir Laurie Bristow told Foreign Office that situation entering a ‘dangerous phase’
  • Dominic Raab went on holiday to Crete shortly after telegrams were received 

The UK’s ambassador to Afghanistan repeatedly warned bosses that the country was on the verge of falling to the Taliban, it was revealed today.

Diplomatic cables show that, despite claims the dramatic collapse was a surprise, Sir Laurie Bristow had been flagging the danger for some time.

However, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab still went on a luxury holiday to Crete – raising questions about whether he ignored the grim assessments or they were not passed on. 

The Times laid out details of telegrams from Sir Laurie and his deputy, Alex Pinfield after they were released by the Foreign Office under freedom of information rules. 

Diplomatic cables show that, despite claims the dramatic collapse in Afghanistan was a surprise, Sir Laurie Bristow (right) had been flagging the danger for some time. Dominic Raab (left) was on holiday in Crete as the Taliban rout happened

UK military personnel boarding a A400M aircraft departing Kabul at the end of August

Taliban fighters in Kabul in August as they took charge of the capital

Taliban forces walked into Kabul after the abrupt US withdrawal sent the previous government into a tailspin.

It came after 20 years of Western involvement and the loss of 457 British military personnel.

The collapse sparked a desperate effort to airlift thousands of foreign nationals and Afghan allies to safety.

On June 28 a cable showed the ambassador warned that American air cover was the main thing preventing the Taliban attempting to take cities.

‘It is unlikely to do so while it perceives a threat from US air power,’ the cable said.

‘From a Taliban perspective, doing so would risk provoking a slowing or a reversal of the US withdrawal, as well as taking significant casualties for little gain. 

‘It is more likely that the Taliban will wait until it believes international military withdrawal is irreversible before escalating its campaign.’

On July 2 President Joe Biden withdrew the US military from Bagram air base.

Sir Laurie sounded the alarm again on August 2, saying: ‘The gloves are off … We are entering a new, dangerous phase of the conflict.’

He added that the Taliban looked likely to take their first city soon. ‘If that happens, the impact on already fragile political unity, military and public confidence and sentiment will be significant.’

Sir Laurie went on: ‘The UK legacy in Helmand may add fuel to the public debate in the UK over relocating those who have worked for us during the last two decades in Afghanistan.’

The ambassador told London that Kabul’s insulation from intense fighting elsewhere was ‘very unlikely to last indefinitely’.

Mr Raab is believed to have gone on holiday to Crete on August 6.

Tory MP Iain Duncan Smith, a former army officer, demanded to know what the Foreign Office did in response to the ambassador’s analysis. 

He told the Times: ‘I’m glad the ambassador was telling the Foreign Office but the question now is what did the foreign secretary do and did anybody in the government say to the Americans ‘This is going to be a disaster if you close Bagram’? Did we at any stage say to them ‘Do not close Bagram’?’ 

Liz Truss (pictured) replaced Mr Raab as Foreign Secretary in the reshuffle last month

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