Hundreds of Afghan special forces heroes face being deported back to their Taliban-controlled homeland and ‘tortured’, in a move branded a ‘betrayal’ by outraged British military chiefs.
Some 200 elite troops, who were trained by the UK and used to fight alongside British and American forces in Afghanistan, have been hiding in Pakistan since the Taliban regained power two years ago.
Now Pakistan, which borders Afghanistan, says it will expel the Afghan refugees, returning them to the hands of the brutal Taliban regime, the BBC has reported, sparking fears the elite soldiers could be ‘tortured and killed’ by the group.
News of the situation facing the elite veterans has enraged former British General Sir Richard Barrons, who is demanding Whitehall steps in, with the UK having already given asylum to thousands of Afghan nationals.
Gen Sir Richard, who served the British Army in Afghanistan over 12 years, told BBC Newsnight the failure of the UK to relocate these soldiers ‘is a disgrace, because it reflects that either we’re duplicitous as a nation or incompetent’.
‘Neither are acceptable,’ the ex-head of Joint Forces Command said. ‘It is a betrayal, and the cost of that betrayal will be people who served with us will die or spend their lives in prison.’
Some 200 Afghan special forces troops face being deported from Pakistan and into the hands of the Taliban (Afghan special forces pictured during a commando graduation in May 2021)
Afghan Special forces patrol a deserted street during fighting with Taliban fighters, in Lashkar Gah, Helmand Province, southern Afghanistan, on August 3, 2021
General Sir Richard Barrons, the former Commander of UK Joint Forces Command, was outraged by the situation
Since returning to power, the Taliban have been staging public executions, stonings, floggings and even chopping the hands off of thieves.
There are fears that should the Afghan commandos be forced to return, they could be killed, with one former British spymaster telling MailOnline the troops would be ‘tortured and executed’ within days by the Taliban.
In 2021, Prime Minister Boris Johnson told MPs the service of the Afghan special forces had been ‘incredibly important’, and added that Britain would do ‘whatever we can’ to provide them with ‘safe passage’.
Philip Ingram, a former Colonel in British military intelligence said Afghan troops would face being tortured and killed
One of the Afghan special forces troops now facing expulsion from Pakistan said they felt abandoned and betrayed by the British Government.
Speaking from a one-room safe house, the veteran who worked with the UK military and is called ‘Ali’, told the BBC: ‘We were together day and night. During training we slept under one tent, eating from the same dish.
‘During operations we fought shoulder-to-shoulder with the British, as members of one family.’
Philip Ingram, a former Colonel in British military intelligence, branded the situation ‘absolutely shocking’ and blamed a culture of ‘apathy’ within the UK civil service for allowing it to happen.
Speaking to MailOnline, Col Ingram said: ‘If any of these individuals gets deported back to Afghanistan, their life expectancy can be measured in a few short days if they’re lucky. They will be tortured and killed. The Taliban have long memories.
Col Ingram fears the Afghan special forces will be tortured and killed by the Taliban if deported (pictured: Taliban fighters stand guard in Kabul, Afghanistan, December 26, 2022)
A Taliban fighter stands guard as a woman walks past in Kabul, Afghanistan on December 26, 2022
‘The least the UK should be pressuring Pakistan not to send these individuals back. The MoD should be looking after these people and doing everything they can to welcome these people in.
‘We wouldn’t have survived without them. They have protected British lives on so many occasions. We owe them a debt of gratitude.’
News of the plight now facing the troops comes as it was revealed the Government has also rejected calls from top British diplomats and military chiefs to offer a safe haven to key Afghan civilian leaders who lives were in danger.
A private letter sent in March 2022 to the Foreign Office, and seen by the BBC, called for urgent help to be given to 32 former prosecutors, governors and other top officials – who worked with the UK and US in Helmand Province during operations between 2006 and 2014.
Like the majority of the 200 Afghan commandos, the 32 officials had applied for safe passage to the UK through the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Programme (ARAP) intended for those who worked ‘alongside’ the UK or ‘closely supported it’.
However, many of those officials and troops were rejected, while others are still waiting for a decision to be made after more than a year.
Sir Richard, who was among those to sign the private letter back in 2022, was furious by the revelation.
‘We made a special commitment to these people, and we have not honoured it with an efficient, effective or even compassionate system,’ Sir Richard added.
Afghan special forces veteran Ali was part of an elite unit known as Commando Force 333 (CF333), set up in 2003 by the UK to counter Afghanistan’s growing problems with opium production.
Afghan Special forces patrol a deserted street during fighting with Taliban fighters, in Lashkar Gah, Helmand province, southern Afghanistan, August 3, 2021.
Some 200 Afghan special forces troops are in hiding in Pakistan but face deportation
A Taliban fighter is pictured standing guard in Kabul as families walk past
Along with its sister unit, Afghan Territorial Force 444, they became known as ‘the Triples’, and quickly gained a fearsome reputation for their courage effectiveness and honesty.
Supported by the UK, the ‘Triples’ were the tip of the spear in some of the most dangerous missions carried out in Afghanistan.
In August 2021, when the Taliban regained control, CF333 remained in the capital of Kabul, defending British passport holders in the Baron Hotel as they sought to escape.
Ali was unable to get on an evacuation flight to the UK and was forced to flee into Pakistan by foot. Despite having fought alongside the British against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda for the best part of two decades, Ali was not given any aid by the UK.
‘We never thought that heroes would be abandoned. We took all those risks. We were ready to help the international community, we respected freedom of speech and human life, then everything turned upside down. It is really disappointing,’ he said.
Col Ingram accused the MoD of ‘washing their hands’ of any responsibility to get the Afghan veterans back to the UK and accused the UK Foreign Office of being hampered by bureaucratic red tape.
‘This is incompetency. The MoD has walked away form this and brushed their hands of it. The MoD are now trusting the civil servants to pull their fingers out,’ he said.
‘This is betrayal through apathy in the civil servants who should be processing these individuals.’
The Ministry of Defence said the UK has made an ‘ambitions and generous commitment’ to help eligible people in Afghanistan.
‘So far, we have brought around 24,600 people to safety, including thousands of people eligible for our Afghan schemes,’ a spokesman said.
‘Each ARAP application is assessed individually and in accordance with published policy, and we do not automatically make a decision on eligibility based on a job role.’