Sir Keir Starmer is demanding Boris Johnson disclose whether he has personally urged the US president Joe Biden to extend the evacuation period in Afghanistan beyond the 31 August deadline.
In a letter to the prime minister on Sunday evening, the Labour leader raised concerns over a “lack of planning and foresight” in the government’s strategy during the crisis – as he put seven “urgent questions” to Mr Johnson.
Sir Keir also demanded Mr Johnson update the UK public with a statement in the coming days “given the scale of national concern for those trying to leave” Kabul and amid scenes of desperation at the weekend at Hamid Karzai International Airport.
It comes after the armed forces minister said both Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary and Ben Wallace, the defence secretary, had made “representations” to their counterparts in Washington over the evacuation deadline.
Minister James Heappey also echoed comments from cabinet ministers this week that the government cannot “confidently say” that all British nationals will be airlifted from the country that was seized by the Taliban last week.
Despite several deaths occurring in the vicinity of the airport, Mr Heappey said the queue was now “flowing better”, insisting that individuals with instructions from the UK government to come forward should have the “confidence” to do so.
However, concerns have been raised that US troops pulling out of the airport by 31 August could jeopardise efforts to evacuate all British nationals and Afghans provided with visas by the government.
Last week, according to Bloomberg, a Pentagon press secretary said the “mandate by the president is to complete the mission by 31st of August” and Mr Biden has previously vowed to remove all troops from the region on the 20th anniversary of 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Speaking on Thursday, however, the US president suggested the end of the month deadline may be extended, insisting: “If there’s American citizens left, we’re going to stay until we get them all out”.
Mr Heappey told Sky News on Sunday that senior cabinet minister had made “representations” to their counterparts in Washington, adding: “If the programme is extended, then there is the opportunity to continue with flights.”
But he added the Taliban insurgency that seized the country’s capital, Kabul, seven days ago, would “get a vote in that too”.
“It’s not just a decision made in Washington, and so I think it’s important to make another point is people shouldn’t despair that whenever the airbridge, the military airbridge, ends, that that is the end of their chances with leaving Afghanistan.”
Ahead of Mr Johnson session at the G7 leaders’ meeting on the situation in Afghanistan, Sir Keir said there were “too many unanswered questions” remaining about the rescue mission in Afghanistan as the end of August deadline approaches.
“Proper planning for the coming days will ensure that no-one to whom we owe so much will be left behind,” said Sir Keir, who posed seven questions in his letter to Mr Johnson.
They included whether the prime minister had personally spoken with Mr Biden “to ask him to extend the evacuation period beyond the end of August” and whether there was a joint UK-US plan “for fully completing the evacuation of both civilians and military personnel” ahead of the deadline.
Echoing questions also put to ministers by shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy and shadow defence secretary John Healey, Sir Keir questioned whether the UK was among those in the Nato foreign ministers’ meeting on Friday that “pressed for an extension” to the evacuation.
He also queried whether the UK government was “working with Nato allies to hold Kabul airport without US troops” should it “become necessary” in the event Washington pulls its armed forces personnel out before efforts are over.
A Government spokesperson said:“We are doing all we can to get as many people out of Afghanistan as possible including British nationals, our Afghan staff and others. Since Sunday we have evacuated more than 5,000 people and these life-saving efforts continue.
“The Prime Minister has been clear a coordinated and concerted international effort is needed. We are in close contact with our Commonwealth and NATO partners to facilitate swift evacuations and have set out that there is no time limit to the resettlement programme.”