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ConflictsMiddle East

UK to relocate more Afghan staff

May 31, 2021

UK government members supported the move, including the home secretary, who called it a "moral obligation." All NATO troops are expected to leave Afghanistan in just over three months.

Former Afghan interpreters protest against US government and NATO in Kabul
Afghan interpreters who have worked with NATO forces have felt under threat in their own countryImage: Mariam Zuhaib/AP Photo/picture alliance

The UK said Monday that it would accelerate the relocation of its Afghan staff ahead of a planned withdrawal of US-led NATO forces.

More than 1,300 Afghan workers and their families have already been brought to the UK under the relocation scheme for former and current Afghan staff. About 3,000 more could be relocated under the plan, according to UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace.

Many of those up for relocation were translators for British troops. The new rules broaden eligibility and make it easier for people to bring their families with them.

The UK ended combat in Afghanistan in 2014, but about 750 troops remain in the country to train Afghan forces.

Funeral for Zabihullah Tamanna, who was killed while interpreting for a US journalist
Afghan interpreters have been killed while working with people from NATO countriesImage: Jawad Jalali/dpa/picture alliance

'Targeted attacks by the Taliban'

"With Western powers leaving, the threat is increasing, including targeted attacks by the Taliban," Wallace said.

He told the broadcaster Sky News that it was "absolutely right that we stand by" people who risked their lives to help British troops.

The UK unveiled a policy in April that allowed any current or former locally employed staff considered under serious physical threat to be offered priority relocation to the UK.

"They sacrificed a lot to look after us, and now we're going to do the same," Wallace said.

UK Home Secretary Priti Patel agreed with Wallace.

Afghan security personnel stands guard during Ramadan services
Afghanistan will soon return to being controlled by its own security forcesImage: Wakil Kohsar/AFP/Getty Images

"I'm pleased that we are meeting this fully, by providing them and their families the opportunity to build a new life in this country," said Patel, saying the UK government had a "moral obligation" to relocate staff.

NATO troops leave after two decades

President Joe Biden announced last month that the US would withdraw its remaining troops from Afghanistan by September 11, 20 years after the terrorist attack by Afghanistan-based al-Qaida that killed nearly 3,000 people. The decision has been criticized by some experts who fear it could lead to the Taliban taking over the country.

Afghanistan: Taliban's return to power 'likely'

Other NATO troops are expected to leave by that date, if they have not already.

NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg: NATO troops also to withdraw from Afghanistan

kbd/csb (AFP, AP)