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Friday April 19, 2024

UK Foreign Secretary to visit Pakistan

A UK government source confirmed that the Foreign Secretary will be in Pakistan for two days to hold talks with Islamabad

By Murtaza Ali Shah
September 02, 2021
UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.
UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.

LONDON: The UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab will be visiting Pakistan to hold high level talks with Pakistani officials against the backdrop of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.

Officials of Pakistan and the UK spoke on Tuesday noon to finalise the visit of Dominic Raab as the Foreign Secretary has been under intense fire for not being on the scene as Kabul fell and thousands of Britons were left stranded as the government of Ashraf Ghani collapsed.

His schedule remained cloaked in secrecy due to security reasons and in the afternoon, the UK govt said, the British foreign secretary will head to the region around Afghanistan for talks about the rescue of those left behind in Kabul after the departure of the remaining foreign forces. However, a UK government source confirmed to this reporter that the Foreign Secretary will be in Pakistan for two days to hold talks with Islamabad. The source informed that Raab will meet civilian and military leadership and the visit is being held on request of the UK govt as it wants to get the remaining British nationals out of the region through third countries. It said that Raab will also likely meet a representative of the Afghanistan government.

Earlier on Tuesday, during a combative grilling on the government’s handling of the crisis in Afghanistan by the Foreign Affairs Committee, Raab hinted at his visit, saying he would be leaving for the “region” on Wednesday, but did not say where exactly due to security reasons. Raab told the Foreign Affairs Committee: “We’re always very careful about travel movements because of the security implications. But I can tell you I’m leaving after this committee to go to the region.” Committee chair Tom Tugendhat asked Raab: “is this your first trip to Pakistan?” “I’ve been to Pakistan before but not as Foreign Secretary,” he responded.

Regarding the Afghan situation prior to withdrawal, Raab said the central assessment of the UK government was that Kabul was “unlikely” to fall in 2021. “The central assessment that we were operating to, and it was certainly backed up by the JIC (Joint Intelligence Committee) and the military, is that the most likely, the central proposition, was that given the troop withdrawal by the end of August, you’d see a steady deterioration from that point and it was unlikely Kabul would fall this year,” he said. He pledged not to recognise the Taliban as the official government of Afghanistan, but said the UK and its allies will “test them and judge them”. “I think we will need, as I have said, a much broader caucus of countries involved in trying to resolve this. The United States is going to remain engaged and responsible for what happens next and of course we want to work very closely with them.”