UK will engage with the Taliban in attempt to stop terror attacks in the West
The UK will engage with the Taliban to stop terror attacks being launched against the West, Dominic Raab has said.
a group of people standing around a table: Taliban fighters in Kabul's presidential palace on Sunday - Zabi Karimi /Associated Press
Zabi Karimi /Associated Press Taliban fighters in Kabul's presidential palace on Sunday - Zabi Karimi /Associated Press
The Foreign Secretary said the Government would take a “pragmatic” approach to dealing with the group, which overran Kabul and seized power in Afghanistan on Sunday.
The UK may impose sanctions on the country, but will also increase overseas development aid there by around 10 per cent in an attempt to prevent terror threats developing, Mr Raab said.
Ken McCallum, the head of MI5, has warned ministers that the Taliban’s control of Afghanistan could produce a “ricochet effect” and creates new threats against the West.
Ministers are drawing up a package of measures to persuade the Taliban to protect the UK’s security interests.
“We will use all the levers that we've got, whether it's economic tools, sanctions, the diplomatic leverage,” Mr Raab told Sky News.
“I think we're going to have to be pragmatic as the UK policy has always been.
“We're going to need to be able to send clear messages, and our message is going to be this: Afghanistan must never be used to launch terrorist attacks against the West.”
In a separate interview with the BBC on Tuesday, Mr Raab said he planned to increase aid to the country “probably by 10 per cent,” following a large cut to the Afghan development budget earlier this year.
The aid will be delivered in the form of humanitarian relief, rather than direct payments to the Taliban, he said.
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Sanctions that could be imposed on Afghanistan include asset freezes to Afghans based in the West, or bans on the import or export of goods.
Asked whether he thought the Taliban were a “ragtag bunch of thugs”, Mr Raab replied: “I am not going to dissent from that view, but they are now in power and we now need to deal with that reality.”
Tobias Ellwood, the Conservative chair of Parliament’s defence select committee, said economic measures would be insufficient.
“This will not prevent a civil war - nor deter the Taliban from imposing a ruthless interpretation of Sharia law,” he said.
Mr Raab’s comments came as Stephen Kinnock, a shadow Foreign Office minister, suggested the UK will need to support tens of thousands of refugees from Afghanistan.
Speaking about Government plans for a bespoke resettlement scheme for vulnerable Afghans, Mr Kinnock told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that "it needs to be a bold and ambitious and generous offer".
Asked if 20,000 people would be a good number of people to bring to the UK, he said: "We need to see an offer that is also backed up with the capacity to process it.
"As you pointed out, the situation on the ground there is so difficult at the moment that we have got to ensure that we don't open up an offer that we can't actually deliver on.
“So we need to see the detail of the plan from the Government, but it is absolutely right that we make an ambitious and bold offer."
Asked if that means tens of thousands of people rather than a few thousand, he said: "I would have thought so, yes, yes - we, of course, need to see the detail, but I think this needs to be a significant offer."
Boris Johnson is expected to announce a plan for refugees later on Tuesday.