Dominic Raab has flown to Qatar for talks about evacuating British nationals and Afghan interpreters from Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover there.
The foreign secretary departed the UK hours after he was questioned by MPs in the Foreign Affairs Select Committee on the events in central Asia.
Mr Raab said he was “not confident with any precision” on how many people eligible to come to the UK were left in Afghanistan – although the number of British nationals is, he said, in the “low hundreds”.
Before he left the country, the foreign secretary spoke to his Indian counterpart, Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, and thanked him for helping to secure a UN Security Council Resolution on Afghanistan.
While in Qatar, Mr Raab will meet the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, and the deputy prime minister and foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani
In a statement, the Foreign Office said Mr Raab will discuss the “four key priorities for Afghanistan” during his stay in Doha, which include “preventing Afghanistan becoming a haven for terrorists, responding to the humanitarian plight, safeguarding regional stability, and holding the Taliban to account on human rights”.
Qatar was the home to the Taliban‘s political operation from 2013, and is encouraging dialogue with the militants despite not recognising them as the government of Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, Foreign Office minister Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon will travel to Tajikistan to talk about the safety of those entering the country from neighbouring Afghanistan.
A leaked document, seen by ministers on 22 July and now shown to Sky News, warned the government that the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan would lead to “rapid Taliban advances”.
Tory chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee Tom Tugendhat read extracts of the ‘Principal Risk Register’ report to MPs during an almost two-hour questioning of Mr Raab on the UK’s withdrawal from Afghanistan.
The document stresses the move could lead to “the fall of cities”, the “collapse of security forces” and that the embassy “may need to close if security deteriorates”.
Asked about the report, Mr Raab told the committee: “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.”
A spokesperson for the Foreign Office said it is “simply wrong and misleading to suggest this document is any way at odds with our detailed assessments of the situation in Afghanistan or our public position throughout the crisis”.