Even though Lord Carrington was in Israel on official business, and there was no prior intelligence pointing to an imminent invasion, he resigned because he felt that the Foreign Office was bereft of credibility. The crisis also led an overhaul of intelligence gathering.
By way of contrast, time will tell whether Mr Raab – a politician whose past experience of foreign affairs was from his perspective as a lawyer and then Brexit – can brazen it out after the Government’s ‘Global Britain’ rhetoric was left in tatters by the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. He says he was making calls while abroad on holiday last week. Others contend that diplomacy cannot be conducted from a beach.
Meanwhile Mr Raab does look even more discredited by reports that he ignored pleas from his officials to telephone Afghan foreign minister Hanif Atmar on Friday – two days before the Taliban marched on Kabul – in order to arrange help for those who supported British troops and, instead, left it to a junior minister who could never expect to be taken seriously.
Now, the Government’s priorities are two-fold – the ongoing evacuation and an assessment of why there was such a serious failure of intelligence about the resilience of an Afghan army that has borne the brunt of 20 years of incessant war.
When people in suits fail, people in boots die – in essence the foreboding warning issued by Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, himself a distinguished former soldier, just days ago. Sadly, it’s an adage that neither Mr Raab, or the Prime Minister, appear to appreciate after their inaction left the Foreign Office in ruins, UK foreign policy in tatters and many people mourning such a deep decline in statecraft.