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Minister admits Special Forces had veto over Afghan commandos’ UK entry

In a startling reversal, the UK government has admitted that UK Special Forces had the authority to veto resettlement applications from Afghan commandos, contradicting earlier statements made to Parliament. This admission comes after a BBC report revealed that former Afghan special forces, known as the “Triples,” who had fought alongside the SAS, were being denied entry to the UK.

The BBC Panorama report from February highlighted that UK Special Forces had been using their assessments to influence decisions on the resettlement of Afghan commandos. This practice was controversial due to its timing, as it coincided with a war crimes inquiry investigating the SAS, potentially preventing crucial witnesses from entering the UK.

The issue was brought to light by Luke Pollard, the shadow armed forces minister, who questioned the Ministry of Defence (MoD) about the alleged veto. Initially, the MoD denied the existence of such a mechanism, asserting that no government body had a veto over the applications.

However, Defence Minister Andrew Murrison recently sent a letter to former SNP defence spokesperson Stewart McDonald, acknowledging an error in the previous parliamentary response. The letter admitted that a standard operating procedure allowed UK Special Forces assessments to guide decisions on the resettlement applications, effectively giving them veto power.

Stewart McDonald described the admission as “an extraordinary admission by the UK government, and a complete and utter betrayal of those Afghan men who fought alongside UK personnel and now face being hunted and executed by the Taliban.”

Hundreds of applications by members of the Triples were rejected following the Taliban’s takeover in 2021. Despite a pledge to review 2,000 rejected applications within 12 weeks, the review process has lagged, with only a small fraction completed more than four months later. This delay has left many former commandos in hiding, living in dire conditions and facing extreme threats to their lives.

Erin Alcock, a lawyer representing some of the rejected applicants, criticized the flawed process, stating that it left “large numbers of vulnerable people wrongly left behind.” She welcomed the correction but called for a thorough examination of how such a process went unchecked for so long.

A former senior Triples officer now residing in the UK expressed his frustration and pain over the veto, stating, “We worked alongside them the whole time. We fought shoulder to shoulder.”

Dr. Iain Overton of Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) commented on the issue, stating, “The treatment of these Afghan commandos is not just a bureaucratic failure but a moral one, highlighting the need for transparency and accountability in how we treat those who risked their lives for our forces.”