Boris Johnson will recall parliament on Wednesday and has called a second emergency Cobra meeting to discuss the situation in Afghanistan.
The prime minister will summon MPs back to Westminster from their summer break for one day, after the Taliban entered the outskirts of Kabul.
He will also chair a Cobra meeting on Sunday afternoon. Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, was returning from a holiday abroad, after criticism that he had failed to speak up on the growing crisis for more than a week.
Raab tweeted on Sunday afternoon that he had “shared [his] deep concerns about the future for Afghanistan” with Pakistan’s foreign minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi. He said they “agreed it is critical that the international community is united in telling the Taliban that the violence must end and human rights must be protected”.
A Commons spokesperson said the Speaker had granted a request from the government for a recall to take place from 9.30am to 2.30pm on Wednesday “in relation to the situation in Afghanistan”.
MPs will be expected to attend in person as provisions for virtual proceedings have lapsed. The House of Lords will also return from 11am on Wednesday, but some peers attending the debate remotely.
Johnson was expected to be on holiday this week but on Sunday afternoon he was preparing to chair a second Cobra meeting on Afghanistan.
Pressure for a recall had come from opposition politicians. Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, said earlier: “We need parliament recalled so the government can update MPs on how it plans to work with allies to avoid a humanitarian crisis and a return to the days of Afghanistan being a base for extremists whose purpose will be to threaten our interests, values and national security.”
Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat leader, demanded a crisis summit for Westminster leaders and the recall of parliament, while Ian Blackford, the SNP’s Westminster leader, also called for a full recall.
Johnson said on Friday that the time had come for the bulk of British diplomatic staff to leave Afghanistan. The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said the UK ambassador to Kabul remained in the country, despite reports that he was due to be airlifted out on Sunday night.
“We have reduced our diplomatic presence in response to the situation on the ground, but our ambassador remains in Kabul and UK government staff continue to work to provide assistance to British nationals and to our Afghan staff,” a government spokesperson said. “We are doing all we can to enable remaining British nationals, who want to leave Afghanistan, to do so.”
After the first Cobra meeting on the situation on Friday, Johnson said there was no military option for the UK in Afghanistan and he wanted to use diplomatic leverage. He insisted that the UK’s 20-year military presence in Afghanistan had not been in vain, claiming the threat of al-Qaida had been greatly reduced.
However, some MPs and international observers have called on him to do more and to consider a global alliance to reverse the march of the Taliban, because of their history of oppressing women and girls, links to terrorist groups and religious extremism.
Davey wrote to Johnson on Sunday, saying: “It is without doubt that we face a crucial point in history and, as a nation, we must act together before it is too late.
“Given the tragedy unfolding before our eyes and the grave threat to national security this raises, I urge you to invite all Westminster party leaders from across the UK to meet with you to discuss our nation’s response to this crisis. It is also right that parliament is recalled as soon as possible to discuss the UK’s response.
“The UK has a responsibility to the people of Afghanistan and to the international community. Now is the time to act – to do the right thing, and bring political parties together in our national interest.”
Tobias Ellwood, the chair of the House of Commons defence committee and a former defence and Foreign Office minister, demanded a recall of parliament.
“The effect of our dire decision to withdraw unfolds. MPs should be recalled to vote (and be seen to vote) on whether we abandon the Afghan people and allow a new haven for terrorism or seek to lead an international coalition. It’s a test of what Global Britain means,” he said.
Chris Bryant, the Labour MP and former minister, also said he believed parliament should be brought back. “Events in Afghanistan are moving very fast but with a significant new deployment of British troops and rapid evacuation of British nationals it is inconceivable that parliament will not be recalled,” he said.
Tom Tugendhat, the chair of the Commons foreign affairs committee, branded the withdrawal from Afghanistan the “biggest single disaster of foreign policy since Suez” and raised concerns that the foreign secretary had not commented on the issue in the last week.
He told the BBC’s Broadcasting House programme that it was “extraordinary” that the UK’s focus had been on minor negotiations with Nato and Europe instead of the lives of 28 million Afghans. Tugendhat also said it appeared “our foreign policy is now entirely decided by Washington”.
Rory Stewart, the former development secretary, who has lived and travelled extensively in Afghanistan, told Broadcasting House it was “monumental” that Kabul was being threatened by takeover by the Taliban, saying the UK should remember it was a “group with the most horrific dark and unpleasant history”.