DOMINIC Raab has defended his handling of the Afghan evacuation after a whistleblower accused him of adding to chaos and delays by quibbling over document formats.

The former Foreign Secretary admitted he had wanted information “presented precisely” but said some criticism appeared “dislocated from the facts on the ground”.

It followed former Foreign Officer desk officer Raphael Marshall claiming the evacuation in August had been “dysfunctional” and “chaotic” under Mr Raab.

In excoriating written evidence to the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, he said less than 5 per cent of 150,000 Afghans trying to flee the Taliban received any help.

He said the process of selecting who was airlifted out was “arbitrary and dysfunctional” and thousands of emails pleading for help went unread.

The team dealing with requests also lacked detailed knowledge of Afghanistan, and none spoke Afghan languages, with any calls conducted in English.

Mr Marshall, who was on the Afghan Special Cases team handling requests from those at risk because of their links with the UK, estimated “between 75,000 and 150,000 people” including dependents applied for evacuation under the “leave outside the rules” category.

But he calculated “fewer than 5% of these people have received any assistance”, adding: “It is clear that some of those left behind have since been murdered by the Taliban”.

Mr Marshall alleged junior officials were “scared by being asked to make hundreds of life-and-death decisions about which they knew nothing”.

He suggested emails marked “desperate and urgent” and with titles such as “Please save my children” were opened but not actioned in a cynical pretence.

He wrote: "I believe the purpose of this system was to allow the Prime Minister and the then foreign secretary to inform MPs that there were no unread emails.” 

When the Taliban took over Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, after 20 years out of power, the UK flew out 15,000 people, including 5,000 British nationals, 8000 Afghans and 2000 children.

Mr Raab was criticised at the time for holidaying in Crete while the Taliban overthrew the previous regime when the US pulled out its last forces.

He was  later moved to become Justice Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister.

Mr Raab told BBC Radio 4 the account was “inaccurate in certain respects” but not all.

He said: “On the charge it took several hours to make decisions, we’re not talking about days, it’s not been suggested weeks, but several hours to make sure we had the facts, and that, as between myself, the Home Secretary and the Defence Secretary, decisions were made and actually I would suggest that’s a reasonably swift turnaround.”

Mr Marshall alleged that at one point Mr Raab “declined to make a decision” on whether to admit a group of women’s rights activists “without a properly formatted submission with a table setting out multiple cases”.

He said it would have been reasonable for Mr Raab to defer to the crisis centre’s judgment but “in the circumstances it is hard to explain why he reserved the decision for himself but failed to make it immediately.

Mr Raab responded: “And in terms of presentation, of course with the volume of claims coming in I make no apology for saying I needed the clear facts that each case presented precisely so we can make swift decisions.

“Some of the criticism seems rather dislocated from the facts on the ground, the operational pressures that with the takeover of the Taliban, unexpected around the world… I do think that not enough recognition has been given to quite how difficult it was.”

Mr Marshall said Foreign Office colleagues were “visibly appalled by our chaotic system” and inadequate computers

Mr Raab said the two-week evacuation was "the biggest operation in living memory" of its kind and the UK had helped a larger number of people than any nation except the US.

He said the criticism of his decision-making was from a "relatively junior desk officer" but the main challenges were in verifying the identities of applicants on the ground and safely escorting them to the airport in Kabul, not in making decisions from Whitehall.

He said: “I don't doubt there were challenges, I don't doubt there will be lessons to be learned but if you look at the facts, I think we did a good job by recent standards of evacuations and by international comparisons.”

Shadow attorney general Emily Thornberry said she was “disgusted” and “truly shocked” by the testimony and Mr Raan should consider his position in light of it.

She told Sky News: "There is plenty of evidence that Dominic Raab is not capable of making the sort of decisions that our country deserves in any way.

Tory MP Tom Tugendhat, who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee, said the “serious” allegations “go to the heart of the failures of leadership around the Afghan disaster”.

He added that the “failures betrayed our friends and allies and squandered decades of British and Nato effort” while he described the evacuation effort as “one of lack of interest, and bureaucracy over humanity”.