The UK government was “surprised by the scale and the pace” with which the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, the foreign secretary has admitted.
Dominic Raab, who flew back to the UK last night from a summer holiday abroad, spoke after a COBRA meeting on Monday at which top ministers and officials discussed the unfolding crisis.
The foreign secretary said the talks focussed on efforts to evacuate British nationals and Afghans who had worked with the UK government in the country.
Mr Raab revealed that 150 British nationals would be arriving back in the UK in the early hours of the morning, with a further 350 Britons and Afghan nationals arriving in the coming days.
But the foreign secretary refused to state how many refugees the UK might accept from Afghanistan, which has fallen back into Taliban control after 20 years.
“Everyone, I think, has been surprised by the scale and the pace at which the Taliban have taken over in Afghanistan,” he said.
“And that’s a lesson that we’ve all got to learn from. But the truth is what matters right now is focusing on getting British nationals out, getting out those who have so loyally served the UK.
“And making sure that the gains that we’ve made over 20 years are not lost.
“Let’s remember we haven’t had a terrorist attack on the UK from Afghanistan in 20 years.
“Because of UK aid, ten million more children have been in education. Because of UK efforts with others, eight million more landmines have been cleared.
“So we have a record that we should not overlook. Of course, the priority now is to make sure that the gains aren’t lost because of the Taliban taking control.”