PRIME Minister Boris Johnson must answer to parliament over the UK’s part in the crisis in Afghanistan, Ian Blackford says.

Westminster returns from recess tomorrow. As MPs prepare to go back into the Commons, the SNP’s Westminster leader has called on Johnson to immediately update parliament following Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab’s visit to the region and continuing concerns for refugees.

Around 15,000 people eligible for evacuation to the UK were airlifted in the final two weeks before total military withdrawal. This includes 8000 Afghans who worked alongside British forces.

But the total number who were left behind is not known. Raab, who was on holiday in Crete as the Taliban took over, has now been in the region to try to negotiate safe passage through nearby countries for those UK citizens and others still trying to leave.

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At a press conference in Pakistan, he pledged £30 million in aid to support the refugee relief efforts in nations bordering Afghanistan, where many of the displaced have gone.

In addition to its Afghan Resettlement and Assistance Policy scheme for ex-interpreters and other workers, the UK will accept 20,000 people through its Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme.

But Johnson has been urged to increase this number due to the scale of need and connections between the UK and those in peril.

The National: SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London. Picture date: Wednesday July 7, 2021. PA Photo. Photo credit should read: House of Commons/PA Wire.

Blackford (above) said: “The situation in Afghanistan remains grave and the steps taken next by the UK and our international partners will be crucial.

“As we return from recess, the Prime Minister must immediately come before Parliament to update MPs on the UK Government’s plans and strategy to deal with the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Afghanistan – a strategy that has so far been shamefully absent – and to set out what discussions have been held with key regional figures.

“The reality is that the UK Government shares responsibility for the dire situation in Afghanistan and it must ramp up its efforts, including by substantially increasing the number of Afghan refugees the UK is willing to take, reversing reckless cuts to aid, and working with our international partners to secure safe routes and protect human rights.

“Recent reports for example that the UK Government does not know how many people eligible to come to the UK have been left behind in Afghanistan are deeply distressing.

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“Despite ignoring the SNP’s calls to recall parliament earlier, I call on the Prime Minister to now ensure parliament is able to fully scrutinise the government’s plans and hold it to account for what has been one of the biggest foreign policy disasters in modern times.”

Raab used a press conference in Islamabad to repeat his claim that there was “common widespread surprise” at the pace of change in Afghanistan.

He told reporters: “The takeover, I think it’s fair to say, was faster than anyone anticipated, not just the United Kingdom or Nato allies, but I was talking with our friends here.

“And I suspect the Taliban and ordinary Afghans were taken by surprise.

“I think there was a common widespread surprise at the speed with which the consolidation of power happened.”

These remarks differed to Johnson, who claimed it had been “clear for many months” that the situation in Afghanistan could change “very fast”.