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Time running out for betrayed Afghans and their families

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Cannes, August 19, 2021

by Mark Porter

Taliban death squads are intensifying their search for anyone they believe worked with UK, US, and NATO forces and are now at Kabul airport. According to a confidential United Nations document, leaked to the New York Times, they are going from door to door threatening to kill or take hostage family members –  unless their targets give themselves up. 

Women wearing self-imposed burkhas

This flatly contradicts Taliban assurances that they would not seek vengeance on members or supporters of the fallen government, according to the account  prepared by a UN threat assessment analyst.

A document issued by the Norwegian Centre for Global Analyses and datelined yesterday reports that the Taliban are working from a list of people and locations. Most at risk are interpreters, members of the Afghan military, of the police, and of course Western journalists. Many are in hiding or on the run.

The document contains a letter dated August 16 to an unnamed Afghan counterterrorism official who worked with British and US intelligence who was told to report to the new Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan offices in Kabul. It warned that his family members “will be treated on the basis of Shariah law” if he failed to give himself up.

The Taliban is issuing repeated assurances that they will not use their victory to take revenge. These ring increasingly hollow as more and more force is applied, for example shots being fired into crowds of protesters in Jalalabad, with at least three killed.

The extreme urgency for hundreds of Afghan families is brought into sharp focus by the plight of an Afghan interpreter named Ahmadzai whose permission to come the UK was revoked overnight despite his being sentenced to death. An utterly shocking London Times podcast told of the Taliban raid on his home last weekend, and of his life in hiding with wife and children.

Working for the British forces “was my mistake”, he said. “Not only have I risked my life and made the Taliban want to kill me, but I’ve also risked the life of my kids.”

ex-soldier UK minister Ben Wallace

UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace almost broke down in tears after admitting earlier this week that some Afghans who had helped British forces would not make it out of the country. As a former soldier he found it “sad”, he said, but added that “the West has done what it’s done” and must get as many people out of Afghanistan as possible.

Ahmadzai worked in the office of exiled former President Ghani, and watched  as four helicopters airlifted Ghani and his entourage out of the palace. Meanwhile Ahmadzai’s home was being searched by the Taliban. His high-profile role working alongside some of the most senior British officers in Helmand had brought a legion of threats and he was sentenced to death by a Taliban court, reported The Times.

“In June he was told that he had been granted permission to come to the UK. However, last week the Home Office decided to revoke his visa.”

NOT CONDUCIVE TO THE PUBLIC GOOD?

Who is Priti Patel, her husband Alex Sawyer and why has she resigned? | Metro News
Home Secretary Priti Patel – overnight rejection of veteran UK army interpreter

The UK rejection signed by Home Secretary Priti Patel said that Ahmadzai’s “character, conduct, and associations” were not “conducive to the public good”. He has no right of appeal. “Take me to the UK and put me in prison. Take me to court. If you believe I’m bad, you can sentence me to death,” he said. “But to leave me behind in Kabul, you are inviting the Taliban to come and kill me. The Taliban won’t give me a chance to speak. They will just shoot,” he says in the Stories of Our Times series of podcasts.

Maj-Gen Charles Herbert with interpreter

Charlie Herbert, a former major-general who worked closely with Ahmadzai in Kandahar, says: “You’re telling me this man is a threat to the United Kingdom? Absolute rubbish.” Wallace told LBC radio yesterday that about 1,400 people would be processed to come to the UK in the coming days but that it would be a challenge to help people further away from Kabul.

One interpreter, Sharif Karimi, 31, was told on Saturday that he was eligible to come to the UK in a government U-turn. He said that after hearing the news he fled to Kabul with his wife and children. “All the way from Lashkar Gar, the Taliban was standing on the road,” he said. They were not searching for people but we were so scared in case they searched the vehicle or any of us.”

However no such luck for Bashir, who was wounded by a sniper during a daytime operation to capture Taliban targets while serving for 14 months in Helmand with the British army.  “I am desperate to escape. Kabul is full of fear. If I am captured, I will be killed because of my work, and I know the Taliban is searching for us,” he told a UK newspaper. “All my paperwork is ready and with the UK authorities. I served them bravely and loyally, and it is now in their gift to save me and my family. “The window for our escape from the Taliban is closing and I do not understand the delay. Why have some been approved and others not?”

Campaigners estimate 200 translators who worked for UK may not be rescued. And yesterday it also emerged that a 125-strong team of guards at the British embassy in Kabul will not be eligible for UK government protection because they were hired through an outsourced contractor, GardaWorld. The guards, many of whom had worked at the embassy for more than a decade, were summarily fired as embassy staff scuttled to the airport, with no chance of being rescued.

“This now looks like a deliberate policy to sacrifice Afghan lives rather than accept refugees,” said the British commentator Nick Cohen.

John Bolton, former national security adviser to Donald Trump, said that the West looked like “suckers”. He said: “I think in Beijing and Moscow they’re laughing at this. It makes us look like we’re suckers. It was a very big mistake.”

LINKS:

Times of London – harrowing podcast

August 19, 2021 NYT How much did Biden really know? 

August 19 World Politics ReviewAllies withdrawal a gift to Russia and China 

August 18 CNN Correspondent on what the Taliban are really like

August 17 MSNBC. US vet – “I will never forgive my country”

 

 

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