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Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has announced the government will increase aid spending on Afghanistan, “probably by 10%,” after the country fell into the control of the Taliban.
On Tuesday Raab told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the government would up its aid spending for “development and humanitarian purposes” after admitting that the government had been “caught off guard” by the speed at which the Islamist military group had taken over Afghanistan.
The government does not want the money to “go through the Taliban,” he stressed.
The announcement is part of package of government measures put together to respond to the quickly-detioriating situation in Afghanistan, where tens of thousands of people are fleeing to avoid Taliban rule.
However, the increase to UK aid spending on Afghanistan comes after the government slashed it by an estimated 78% as part of a controversial reduction of overall aid spending earlier this year.
The government’s aid spending on Afghanistan was set to be £37.5m for 2021/22, down from £167.5m last year, according to analsis by the House of Commons Library reported by The i.
On Monday night No.10 said the government would soon announce the details of a resettlement scheme for Afghan refugees, designed to provide safe haven to those most in need like women and girls.
The government is continuing with its efforts to evacuate British officials and passport holders from Afghanistan, as well as Afghans who have helped the UK with its 20-year operation in the country.
“The UK team in Afghanistan is working around the clock in incredibly difficult circumstances to help British nationals and as many others as we can get to safety as soon as possible,” a Downing Street spokesperson said last night.
“At the same time, we are bringing together the international community to prevent a humanitarian crisis emerging in Afghanistan – it’s in everyone’s interest not to let Afghanistan fail.
“That means providing whatever support we can to the Afghan people who have worked so hard to make the country a better place over the last twenty years and who are now in need of our help.”
Raab this morning said the entire international community had been surprised by the lightning speed at which the Taliban swept across Afghanistan before taking control of the capital Kabul.
“I’ve spoken not just to our closest partners but countries in the region from Pakistan to Qatar. All of those were caught off guard,” he told the BBC.
“What we’ve done though is react as rapidly, swiftly, and decisively as we can against very difficult situations on the ground in Afghanistan, Kabul in particular to prioritise evacuating our nationals and the Afghan staff who served us so loyally, but also working now with the international community to make sure we don’t lose the gains you described.”
In a seperate interview with Sky News, the Foreign Secretary admitted the UK had not foreseen what would happen in Afghanistan after following the contorversial US move to withdraw troops from the country.
“No one saw this coming — of course we would have taken action if we had,” he said.
Raab stressed it was important that the UK could “engage” with the Taliban so it could exert influence on how the group rules in Afghanistan.
However, the minister admitted he could not say he trusted the Taliban to follow through on its commitments it made under the Doha Agreement to not use its territory as a base for terrorism.
“Frankly, I can’t tell you I trust them to follow through on them but having done so I think it’s important to test and then use the remaining levers we have,” he told the BBC.
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