DOMINIC Raab defied orders to cut short his sunshine holiday just two days before Afghanistan collapsed in chaos, it has been revealed.
A senior Downing Street official told the Foreign Secretary he should return from Crete to take charge as the Taliban reached the gates of Kabul.
But sources claim he phoned Boris Johnson and “suckered” him into extending his stay.
Ministers were aghast 48 hours later when Mr Raab joined a Cobra meeting by video call from his luxury hotel – as turmoil descended on Afghanistan.
An insider said: “It was unbelievable. There were heart-wrenching scenes of desperate people scrambling to escape on one screen – and Dom in his beach resort on the other.”
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the Foreign Office minister with responsibility for Afghanistan, was also on holiday as the insurgents swept to power, it emerged yesterday.
The latest developments stacked up the pressure on Mr Raab and led to fresh calls from Labour and Tory MPs for him to resign.
The embattled minister had already spent seven days at his five-star Aegean beachfront resort when he was told to come back on Friday, August 13.
A source said: “He was told to get back to Westminster on the Friday after joining a Cobra meeting on Zoom.
“But everyone who turned up for the Sunday Cobra were surprised when he wasn’t there – and totally gobsmacked when he appeared down the line, still in Crete.”
Sources say the “get back” order was repeated by the PM in a phone call after the Friday meeting.
But allies of Mr Raab insisted he was assured by Mr Johnson he could stay on.
They say the PM agreed he could “begin the process of coming home” – but didn’t have to leave until Sunday.
A spokesman for the Foreign Secretary said: “He did have a conversation with Number 10 on the Friday but was reassured he didn’t need to come back.”
A Cabinet source tonight said: “It looks like he’s gone straight to the top, soft-soaped the PM and suckered him into letting him stay out there a bit longer.”
‘DERELICTION OF DUTY’
Mr Raab arrived back in London in the early hours of Monday morning to a furious backlash over his absence – or even make a crucial phone call to contact his Afghan counterpart.
The row has strained relations between Number 10 and the Foreign Office and led to speculation that Mr Raab will be moved in the next reshuffle.
Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove – known to be ambitious to occupy a great office of state, is among those tipped to replace him.
He wasted no time swotting up on the Afghan brief last weekend and had all the facts and details at his fingertips during the Cobra meeting.
One who was present said: “The contrast between him and Dom was stark. Dom spent most of his time talking about the airport and plane timetables, rather than consular work or visas.
“But Michael Gove had clearly given a lot more thought to the international diplomatic effort than him and left him in the shade.”
MPs who lined up to defend the PM’s aide Dominic Cummings were slow to rush to Mr Raab’s defence yesterday.
One ally declined an invitation to go on radio to speak up for the Foreign Secretary.
He said: “I’d like to help him in any way I can but they were asking me to defend the indefensible. It was an almost impossible request. It was a hiding to nothing case.
“I suspect it would be easier to mount a defence of Kabul international airport than Dominic Raab right now.”
Another senior Tory said: “Boris seems to have a problem with people named Dominic. They always seem to be in the thick of any trouble that arises for the PM.
“First it was Dominic Grieve and his attempts to stifle Brexit, then it was Dominic Cummings and his lockdown-busing antics and now it’s Mr Raab.
“The Dominics seem to be falling like dominoes.”
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, close to tears as he witnessed the chaos last weekend, was said to be “livid” about Mr Raab’s handling of the situation.
A fellow minister said: “It shouldn’t have been Ben who was fighting the withdrawal, it should have been the Foreign Secretary and the PM whom he was advising.
“He wrote the plan. He chose to follow America and not stand up to them.”
It was unbelievable. There were heart-wrenching scenes of desperate people scrambling to escape on one screen – and Dom in his beach resort on the other.
One minister said: “It was nothing short of a dereliction of duty. Once you’re a member of the Cabinet you can’t guarantee a holiday every year. It’s a price you pay for having the job.
“I’ve had at least three holidays disrupted – and for nothing anywhere near as serious as the situation in Afghanistan.”
Another minister thought it outrageous that Mr Raab had been on holiday since August 6 but failed to return early as the crisis unfolded.
“I can’t believe he was away for ten days,” said the minister. How does he have the nerve to look people in the eye?”
Another minister said: “It’s a disgrace. Dom should be resigning.”
The Foreign Secretary still has the full confidence of the PM, Number 10 said.
But some feel Mr Johnson is merely repaying his loyalty after he took over the reins of power while he was in a hospital intensive care unit suffering from coronavirus last year.
One minister said Mr Raab’s time as stand-in PM“broke his brain” and led him to try to control too much, slowing down critical decision making.
The MP said: “When he had to deputise for the PM he saw the whole picture and I don’t think he’s been able to rewind to just be the foreign secretary.”
Source: The Sun