'We underestimated Taliban' admits Dominic Raab as UK prepares Afghan resettlement scheme

Hundreds of Aghans were flown to the UK on Tuesday night, as ITV News Politics Correspondent Carl Dinnen reports

The UK "underestimated" the Taliban's will to takeover Afghanistan, the foreign secretary has said, as he blamed the country's security forces for capitulating so quickly.

Dominic Raab said assessments of the Taliban did not anticipate the speed at which it would overrun the country, but the government also expected Afghan security forces to be "more resilient than they were".

The foreign secretary said the focus now, amid the Islamist group's capture of Afghanistan, must be to evacuate British nationals and native allies before the Taliban's grip on the country tightens further.

He said the government was preparing a "bespoke" asylum process for Afghans who want to flee the Taliban, with a resettlement scheme set to be announced by PM Boris Johnson "shortly".

Raab: 'We underestimated the Taliban':

British armed forces are aiming to get around 6,000 people out of Afghanistan via Kabul and "can't afford to pause" in its evacuation of British citizens and Afghan allies, said Royal Navy Vice Admiral Sir Ben Key.

There are huge concerns about human right's abuses in the country, with humanitarian groups saying women and girls are likely to suffer most.

Afghanistan's United Nations Security Council representative urged world powers in a meeting on Monday to help the millions of women and girls "are about to lose their freedom to go to school, to work, to participate in the political, and social life of the country".

ITV News Senior International Correspondent John Irvine has reported beauty salons run by women being closed down, despite Taliban assurances that human rights will be protected.

Watch ITV News Senior International Correspondent John Irvine’s eyewitness report from Kabul where he spoke to a Taliban commander and saw women’s beauty salons shut as the militants took over.

This video contains distressing images

The Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan after being ousted from government 20 years ago by Western forces, was sparked by allies agreeing to pull out their remaining military personnel.

Critics say this allowed the group to sweep across the country at lightening speed, with the capital Kabul among the last settlements to fall, with a siege which started on Friday complete by Sunday.

Both US President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Johnson had made statements prior to pulling out of Afghanistan, saying they did not believe the Taliban was capable of recapturing the country.

Asked why the UK "did not see this coming", Mr Raab told ITV News: "The assessment underestimated both the will of the Taliban to proceed as quickly as they were willing too."

"But also, ultimately, we thought the Afghan institutions, not just security but they're the first and foremost, would be more resilient than they were."

He said the UK, along with the international community, would be exerting as much pressure on the Taliban as possible, to ensure it enshrines "standards of basic decency like the way they treat women".

PM Johnson spoke to German Chancellor Angela Merkel this morning about the situation in Afghanistan and the need for a "joined-up approach".

A Downing Street spokesperson said the pair agreed that "global co-operation was crucial" on the need to evacuate foreign nationals and others from Afghanistan, and the longer-term importance of preventing a humanitarian crisis in the country and region.

"The prime minister also stressed the need to agree shared international standards on human rights that any future Taliban government in Afghanistan will be held to by the international community," the spokesperson added.

It is expected the Taliban's new Afghan insurgency will spark a huge outpouring of refugees and countries around the world are preparing to open their borders to the new asylum seekers.

The UK is reported to be preparing a scheme to accept accept 20,000 Afghan refugees after Canada announced the same.

"We want to show that Britain is a big hearted nation," said Mr Raab, "so as we did with Syria we'll come up with a bespoke arrangement for Afghanistan - the home secretary and the PM will be announcing the details of that in due course, shortly."

Raab: 'This government will live up to the big-hearted traditions of this country':

The foreign secretary refused to reveal what number of refugees the UK would be prepared to take, with 20,000 said to be ambitious.

That's because of the lack of clarity over whether the Taliban will allow refugees to leave.

On Monday Defence Secretary Ben Wallace admitted there will be some people unable to escape the country.

He said "around 2,000 Afghans allied with British Army during the war, many as interpreters, have been given a "ticket to ride" to the UK on military planes "but that is not withstanding whether the Taliban will allow all people out of the country".

"I've been really frank," the former army captain told ITV News, "there are still people who will not be able to get to Kabul and will just not be able to get out at this time."

Labour has attacked the government, saying it is a "dereliction of duty" that the UK is unable to guarantee a route out of Afghanistan for those remaining in the country who have worked with British Forces over the years.

Stephen Kinnock, the party's shadow Asia minister, said the UK has "failed in our moral duty to the people of Afghanistan".

He said the government "needs to make an ambitious offer" for accepting Afghan refugees, something similar to what has been offered by Canada.