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Betrayed and Forgotten? The plight of Afghan Special Forces facing deportation exposed

In a recent BBC investigation, allegations have emerged concerning Afghan special forces, once allied with the British Army, now facing the threat of deportation back to Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. This situation has raised serious questions about the effectiveness and execution of the UK’s policies intended to protect these former allies.

About 200 members of the Afghan special forces, trained and financed by the UK, and known as the Triples (comprising CF-333 and ATF-444 units), currently find themselves stranded in Pakistan, facing deportation back to Afghanistan. Their status seems a direct consequence of the UK’s Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy (ARAP) seemingly failing them. They were informed that they do not qualify under ARAP, despite its goal to resettle those who worked alongside the UK military in Afghanistan.

The BBC’s report illuminates a stark reality: many of these Afghan soldiers, who served alongside British forces, have had their hopes for a safe haven in the UK dashed. Despite receiving references from their British military counterparts, their applications for assistance have reportedly been rejected, often without any communication from the MoD or ARAP.

The situation has further been complicated by the UK government’s internal disagreements. While Armed Forces Minister James Heappey pointed to the challenges in verifying the Afghan soldiers’ service, Veterans Minister Johnny Mercer and Security Minister Tom Tugendhat have expressed more supportive views, acknowledging the duty owed to these individuals.

Further muddling the issue is the revelation that these Afghan forces, contrary to MoD’s claims, were paid directly by the British. This contradicts the stance that they were solely employees of the Afghan interior ministry and raises questions about the UK’s responsibility towards them.

This ordeal not only represents a bureaucratic entanglement but also a moral quandary for the UK. These Afghan soldiers, who faced mortal danger and played pivotal roles in British missions, are now left in a state of vulnerability and uncertainty. The UK’s failure to effectively respond to their situation – with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCDO) seemingly unable to act without support from the Home Office (HO), seems casts a shadow over its commitment to those who have risked their lives in support of British operations abroad.

Dr. Iain Overton of Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) commented on the situation, highlighting the ethical implications: “The abandonment of these men speaks to a broader issue of the UK’s seeming hostility to those who are forced to flee war, often because of UK international engagements. It’s not just a policy oversight; it’s a failure of moral responsibility.”

The story of the Afghan special forces is a hard reminder of the complexities and human costs involved in international military engagements. It underscores the need for not only strategic and tactical collaboration during conflicts but also a steadfast commitment to those who are left abandoned once the guns have fallen silent.

This issue, coming at a time with wider dramas over Rwanda and the UK’s own attempts to deport asylum seekers, stands as a test of the UK’s integrity and its willingness to uphold the promises made to its foreign allies.

The resolution of this matter will speak volumes about the values and principles that guide the UK’s foreign policy and its treatment of those who have served alongside its forces.