Britain has a ‘moral obligation’ to help Afghan interpreters who served with UK troops, a former head of the military said yesterday.
In a major intervention, Air Chief Marshal Lord Stirrup said there was also a ‘reputational risk’ if they were abandoned which could affect the UK’s ability to fight future wars.
The comments by Lord Stirrup, Chief of the Defence Staff during the 13-year Afghan conflict, add weight to the Daily Mail campaign for loyal interpreters to be given sanctuary in Britain from Taliban reprisals.
He was backed by two Tory MPs who have served as Army officers, Tom Tugendhat and Johnny Mercer, along with Baroness Coussins at a Parliamentary inquiry.
The former head of the military said Afghans who helped British soldiers in the war should be helped by the UK. Pictured: A British soldier walks through Musa Qala in Helmand
In evidence, Lord Stirrup said: ‘I’m very conscious of both the moral obligation we owe to those who worked for us in such dangerous conditions in Afghanistan and the practical reality of needing to recruit such people in the future.’
Calling for a policy overhaul, he said the Government should be ‘much more sympathetic towards people who want to come to the UK and have worked for us in Afghanistan’.
The Mail’s Betrayal of the Brave campaign is supported by MPs, ex-military commanders and an 180,000-strong petition.
Lord Stirrup, pictured speaking in the House of Commons, said he was mindful of the practical reality of recruiting Afghan interpreters in the future
Under current rules, many interpreters do not qualify for asylum and any who have made it to the UK along migrant routes have been told they face deportation to Kabul.
Dr Julian Lewis, chairman of the defence select committee which is holding the inquiry, noted there was both a moral and a practical case to be made for allowing interpreters into the UK.
Mr Tugendhat, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and was military assistant to the Chief of the Defence Staff, is now chairman of the foreign affairs select committee.
He said his frontline role ‘would not have been possible’ without interpreters who faced ‘significantly greater’ risks as they were targeted by the Taliban in a warning to others.
Under current rules interpreters who helped the British in Afghanistan may not qualify for asylum and are often sent back to Kabul. Pictured: British soldier in Helmand Province
In evidence, he added: ‘If we don’t look after those we need in conflict… we will find it significantly harder to recruit and that will make us less safe.’
Mr Tugendhat said a UK government official told him letting an interpreter who had become a triple amputee into Britain would ‘create a precedent’. The man had to seek sanctuary in India instead.
Mr Mercer, who sits on the defence committee, said the UK has ‘a clear moral responsibility’ and it was ‘not good enough to treat people in this manner’. In evidence, Baroness Coussins said the policy needed to be ‘reconsidered’.
Paddy Ashdown, former Lib Dem leader and ex-Royal Marine, said: ‘It would set a shameful precedent not to help these brave men.’