Local interpreters who worked with British troops in Afghanistan are questioning the lack of rescue action by London to help them escape, as other nations successfully carry out ‘mercy flights’ from Kabul.
“Each week Afghanistan becomes more dangerous, more of those who worked for foreign forces are being found and punished. One day it will be our turn. We can’t be lucky forever,” interpreter Hussain, 48, told the Daily Mail.
When Western troops left the country in late August, local staff who had worked for them were forced into hiding. Yet, many of those who had aided British soldiers have reportedly been receiving only messages calling for patience and no clear time frame in which they can expect to be flown out of Afghanistan.
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Now those helpers are growing increasingly desperate as London drags its feet on flying them out of the Taliban-ruled country.
According to the Mail, the government is asking those in need of help to “please continue to remain patient and stay safe until the evacuation call up occurs” – a message that apparently doesn’t sound too reassuring to former interpreters, many of whom have received death threats.
Interpreter Aziz, 40, told the Mail that he and other British-affiliated interpreters “feel forgotten” by the UK government and that “time is running out” for them. Despite being cleared to come to Britain, Aziz is still unable to leave Afghanistan.
To add insult to injury, British-affiliated translators have seen their fellow colleagues who had worked for the Americans board nine consecutive evacuation flights since August 31, all arranged by Washington. But the staff who aided British forces say there was no room for them on those aircraft.
Meanwhile, under pressure from veteran organisations at home, Washington has planned more evacuation flights, which are expected to take place by Christmas. However, the UK government has not officially announced any similar plans, issuing reassurances with no concrete time frames instead.
An RAF flight did carry 31 Afghans to safety last week. However, according to Boris Johnson’s own conservative estimates, a total of 311 Afghan staff with a right to resettle in the UK are still stuck in the country. Other sources put the total number of those awaiting evacuation to Britain at some 6,800.
To make matters worse for British-affiliated interpreters, the UK Ministry of Defence mistakenly shared the personal details of some 250 Afghan staff who had aided British forces in an email. The mistake came to light in late September causing outrage among British lawmakers.
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A number of interpreters did manage to make it out of Afghanistan by August 31, though the evacuation was poorly organised and soon descended into chaos with other desperate Afghans trying to board just about any plane leaving the country.
Some even clung to the outside of aircraft and at least two fell to their grisly death as the planes ascended. It was later revealed that 19-year-old Zaki Anwari, who played for the Afghan national youth football team, was among the victims.
In an attempt to prevent such scenes, Western troops guarding Kabul airport fired their weapons into the air, forcing desperate Afghans out of the compound’s perimeter. The chaos culminated in a deadly suicide blast on August 26, claimed by ISIS affiliate group Islamic State – Khorasan Province (ISIS-K). The blast killed 13 US military personnel and at least 170 Afghans queueing up outside the airport.
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