A former Afghan interpreter who worked for Prince Charles has spoken of his fears for his family, saying the Taliban will show ‘no mercy’ as they tighten their grip on his homeland.
Nazir Ayeen was granted asylum in Britain almost a decade ago after risking his life as a teenager on the frontline, during which time he translated for the Prince of Wales and other high-level VIPs.
The 32-year-old master’s degree student spoke of his fears for his family in the capital, Kabul, as well as the other former interpreters and staff yet to be relocated by the UK Government.
Mr Ayeen, who regularly came under rocket and mortar attack during his work with British forces in the southern Helmand Province, told Metro.co.uk their lives are at ‘severe’ risk from the insurgents.
The US and UK are currently withdrawing at pace, with American forces having abandoned their key Bagram Airbase, reportedly leaving early and without informing their Afghan allies.
Mr Ayeen said: ‘The Taliban have no mercy for interpreters, they consider them to be the allies and spies of the infidels. This is true to my experience working in the villages in Helmand Province with the British Army.
‘A large group of interpreters and other local staff employed by the British are still in Afghanistan, where they are traumatised and uncertain about the future. The situation they face is very dangerous and the British Government needs to act quickly. Their lives are at severe risk.’
The British Government has accelerated and widened an existing resettlement scheme but fears remain that former interpreters and other Afghans who served Western forces will be left at the mercy of the Taliban.
On Tuesday, a rocket attack on the presidential palace in Kabul, which ISIS claimed to have carried out, provided an ominous sign of the deteriorating security situation amid the drawdown, which is expected to be completed within weeks. Hopes of a peace deal have faded, with some experts on Afghan affairs saying the Taliban has Kabul in its sights.
For UK troops, the departure marks the end of a two-decade commitment on the ground, which claimed the lives of 457 British soldiers and civilians.
Mr Ayeen, who now lives in Fulham, West London, said: ‘My family are still in Afghanistan and I fear that my reputation could endanger their lives if the Taliban take control of Kabul, where they live.
‘The Taliban are a very barbaric, violent force and there is no guarantee they will respect people’s human rights if this happens.
‘My family is living with the threat from Taliban hanging over their heads.’
While the British Government has stepped up efforts to relocate former locally-employed staff, the global politics student has joined campaign group the Sulha Alliance in warning that the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) risks leaving out many who are at risk.
One obstacle has been the denial of resettlement to former staff said to have been dismissed for trivial offences or administrative reasons, although the Government has now pledged to review these cases under the fast-track, which was announced in May 2021.
‘The fast-track resettlement programme is a welcome gesture but it is not enough,’ he said.
‘It is too little and not inclusive enough; it doesn’t allow labourers to come to the UK, it doesn’t include people dismissed for any reason and it doesn’t include the whole community of Afghans who worked for the British Government. It’s very specific in who to resettle and how it happens.’
The Londoner told Metro.co.uk that he signed up as an ‘idealistic’ 17-year-old hoping to bring stability to his country, serving between 2007 and 2010 with the Royal Marines and Scots Guards.
He interpreted for Prince Charles during the Royal’s visit in March 2010 as well as senior British military figures and ministers including William Hague and Liam Fox, who were then Foreign Secretary and Defence Secretary respectively. He arrived in the UK in 2013 after death threats from the Taliban and has since been given leave to remain.
‘From the outset, the UK and America made the political situation in Afghanistan more chaotic,’ Mr Ayeen said.
‘They were foreign forces in an Islamic country where there are sensitivities with conservative Muslims and the Taliban.
‘This goes back to wars with the British empire and the Soviet Union. From the beginning, there should have been some kind of negotiation and political compromise, but it took 20 years and the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, British, Afghan, soldiers and civilians, to be in a fragile, uncertain and shaky situation.
‘It seems the British and Americans have created a longer-term problem, not only in Afghanistan but in the wider region, as the country suffers from rivalries between regional and international powers.
‘The Taliban are gaining ground and they now control more territory than the Afghan government.
‘Politically, they feel they hold the momentum and they do not feel moved to make any kind of compromise with the government.’
The former interpreter, who spent another three years working for the British Embassy in Kabul, has had his early hopes replaced by a harsh reality.
‘When I joined the British forces I was very young and idealistic and I thought the British forces represented the best chance of peace and stability for Afghanistan,’ he said. ‘I was very unaware of the complexities in the country and, 20 years on, I feel disappointed.
‘However I do feel proud that I worked alongside the most elite army in the world to try and bring peace to the country.’
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has made a commitment to ‘significantly accelerate’ relocations through the ARAP, which is not time limited and prioritises those most at risk.
Other support, including security advice, financial assistance and relocation to safe areas within Afghanistan, is being provided.
An MoD spokesperson said: ‘We owe a huge debt of gratitude to interpreters who risked their lives working alongside UK forces in Afghanistan and the Government has already supported 1,501 former Afghan staff and their families in creating new lives in the UK.
‘Nobody’s life should be put at risk because they supported the UK Government to bring peace and stability.
‘We are the only nation with a permanent expert team based in Kabul to investigate claims from courageous local staff who are threatened as a result of their work with the UK.’
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