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Keir Starmer has criticised Boris Johnson and foreign secretary Dominic Raab’s handling of the response to the fall of Aghanistan to the Taliban for taking holidays and for not speaking to regional ambassadors, leaving the UK unprepared.
Starmer accused the prime minister of a failure of leadership and said he had shown poor judgement and complacency on how to handle the situation in the country, even though he had 18 months to prepare for the withdrawal of US troops.
He highlighted that Johnson had not visited Afghanistan since becoming prime minister, and a British foreign policy integrated review released this year only had two references to the country, and did not mention the Taliban.
Both Johnson and Raab were on holiday when as the Taliban began its final advance on Kabul over the weekend, with Johnson returning from a UK break to chair a Cobra meeting on Sunday. Raab returned from a holiday in Crete on Sunday night.
“You cannot coordinate an international response from the beach,” Starmer said pointedly.
Starmer said Raab “didn’t even speak to ambassadors in the region as Kabul fell to the Taliban” and accused both the foreign secretary and PM of “a dereliction of duty”.
He added: “That is the cost of careless leadership.”
MPs in the Commons were reminded by the Labour leader that Johnson told the Commons in July that there was no military path for the Taliban, nor were they capable of a victory, which turned out to be wrong.
“The British government were wrong and complacent,” Starmer continued.
“The Prime Minister was wrong and complacement. And when he wasn’t rewriting history, the Prime Minister was displaying the same appalling judgement and complacency last week.”
“You cannot coordinate an international response from the beach.”
Keir Starmer criticised Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab for going on holiday as the situation in Afghanistan deteriorated pic.twitter.com/4eNhAHS2ui
— PoliticsHome (@politicshome) August 18, 2021
Johnson’s last trip to Afghanistan was as foreign secretary in 2018, which was widely reported at the time as being a trip used to avoid a vote on the expanion of Heathrow airport.
During the debate in the Commons, Johnson and a furious looking Raab both shook their heads repeatedly at Starmer and responded with inaudble remarks as he launched his attack on the pair.
At one point Starmer stopped his statement to claim the foreign secretary had asked him “what would you have done differently?”.
Starmer replied: “I wouldn’t stay on holiday while Kabul was falling.”
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