SAS squad swoops in to rescue Afghan translators who fear they may have just 15 days to get out of war-torn Kabul before Taliban fighters hunt them down
- SAS soldiers flown into Kabul to help evacuate British staff and interpreters
- Experts fear the UK has just 15 days left to rescue those left in Afghan capital
- Operation Pitting aims to bring back UK citizens, former translators, their families and Afghans who aided Britain in their fight against the Taliban
SAS soldiers were last night flown into Kabul to help spearhead the evacuation of British staff and interpreters – amid warnings that the UK has just 15 days to rescue them.
Their role will be to rally those who are entitled to fly and transport them to an airport which will be secured by paratroopers and US marines.
It is part of a plan named Operation Pitting which aims to bring back UK citizens, former translators, their families and Afghans who worked for Britain.
It comes as former interpreters in Kabul last night said they believed the UK Government had a ‘small window’ of around 15 days to rescue them before Taliban fighters hunt them down. There are fears that they are just 25 miles from the Afghan capital.
SAS soldiers were last night flown into Kabul to help spearhead the evacuation of British staff and interpreters – amid warnings that the UK has just 15 days to rescue them
The special forces unit will rally those who are entitled to fly and transport them to an airport which will be secured by paratroopers and US marines
Boris Johnson said yesterday: ‘In the course of the next few days we will see the vast bulk of UK embassy staff come back, and step up our efforts to bring back those Afghans who have helped us throughout the last 20 years.
‘We’re sending out another team of Home Office officials to help them with their applications. We are appealing to those who have association with the UK who want to come out now to come forward and identify themselves.’
He spoke as dozens of translators and Afghan workers staged demonstrations outside the British embassy yesterday pleading not to be ‘left behind’.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said: ‘We have a moral obligation to support the fearless Afghan staff and their family members who served alongside our brave troops in Afghanistan.’
And Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said protecting Britons ‘is our top priority’ which is why Operation Pitting has commenced.
Some translators who risked their lives beside UK troops and their families have been approved for relocation – but others are still awaiting decisions on their cases. And several said they are hiding in newly captured cities.
One translator whose case has been highlighted by the Mail’s award-winning Betrayal of the Brave campaign said: ‘Please pray for us… I don’t know if you will hear from us again.’
His fear was shared by former interpreters now in the UK who say their families are being threatened. Rafi Hottak, who was blown up on the front-line in Helmand and now lives in the Midlands, said the Taliban will punish his parents.
Former interpreters in Kabul last night said they believed the UK Government had a ‘small window’ of around 15 days to rescue them before Taliban fighters hunt them down
A dozen UK-based translators whose wives are in Afghanistan because the Home Office refused them visas were also panicking yesterday.
Mohammad, who was engaged to be married when he came to the UK and returned to be wed, said his wife is ‘accused of marrying an “infidel spy” ’.
The UK Government has planned another 12 so-called freedom flights for interpreters, their families and British-employed Afghans – and there were calls last night to bring those awaiting a decision to the UK or British bases in Cyprus to protect them.
Retired Major General Charlie Herbert, a former commander in Helmand, said: ‘Now is not the time to leave them at the murderous hands of the Taliban while paperwork is being dealt with.’
SAS soldiers arrived in Kabul last night and they join the Paras and Special Forces, an RAF air traffic team and medical staff.
Military commanders have also placed Royal Marine Commandos on standby in case greater forces are needed to escort convoys of British citizens – and Afghans – to the airport through the packed streets of Kabul which are well known to the Taliban. There are as many as 4,000 people who are entitled to be evacuated.
A senior military source said: ‘I doubt we are just going to land and evacuate people. Somehow, we need to get those who are entitled to fly to the airfield – it will be a hell of a challenge.’
‘There will be nowhere left to run’
After running from the Taliban in his home city, former Afghan interpreter Wazir and his family spent last night in a park in Kabul with other refugees.
The 31-year-old is trying to secure sanctuary in the UK after being rejected for relocation twice because he was dismissed after nearly three years on the front line.
But as the situation has escalated in Afghanistan, he has applied again.
Former Afghan interpreter Wazir, 31, and his family spent last night in a park in Kabul with other refugees
‘Relocation is my best chance of escape,’ he said. ‘The Taliban will want revenge on those who they call traitors for working with the British – they don’t ask if I was dismissed.’
Earlier this week, Wazir said he wore one of his wife’s burqas as a disguise to slip past Taliban fighters as they stormed through his home city of Kunduz as they hunted down those who worked for the Afghan government and Western forces.
‘The Taliban will punish, kill and behead. After Kabul, there will be nowhere to run so I appeal to the British Government to rescue me.’
He said he, wife Frishtah, 30, three-year-old son Mohammad and daughters Tamaz, six, Iqrah, four, and 11-month-old Yususra were sleeping in the park, taking food from volunteers.
Wazir said he had written to Defence Secretary Ben Wallace pleading for sanctuary, which was previously refused because he was dismissed after allegations that he took drugs on a military base.
He denies the claim.
Our golden ticket to freedom in Britain
An interpreter who has finally reached the UK after his request for sanctuary was repeatedly turned down said yesterday that he owes his freedom to the Daily Mail.
The father of three, who we are referring to as Ahmed for security reasons, was among dozens of former translators who have arrived in Britain on freedom flights.
Some 1,400 Afghans have entered the UK since June – a victory for the Mail’s Betrayal of the Brave campaign.
Ahmed, 39, who arrived with his wife and three daughters, said: ‘We have been given a golden chance to come to Britain thanks to the Daily Mail
Ahmed, 39, who arrived with his wife and three daughters, said: ‘We have been given a golden chance to come to Britain thanks to the Daily Mail.
‘I am looking forward to taking my daughters to the park, breathing in the fresh air and knowing that we are safe.’
‘But I feel guilty about my colleagues who are still stuck in Afghanistan.’ A Government spokesman said it has ‘expanded and accelerated the relocation scheme’.
Evacuate us now before it’s too late…
For the last 56 days, Mayar has been waiting for a phone call or email to tell him and his family the details of the freedom flight that will take them to Britain.
The 47-year-old former interpreter – who translated for ex-prime minister David Cameron – said he is one of the ‘lucky ones’ who has been approved for relocation with his wife and four children.
But he fears his luck may be coming to an end.
For the last 56 days, Mayar (pictured middle) has been waiting for a phone call or email to tell him and his family the details of the freedom flight that will take them to Britain
Mayar said: ‘We worry that time is rapidly running out and the insurgents will arrive before the flight to rescue us.’ He knows the danger he faces as the Taliban opened fire on him three years ago and narrowly missed.
He said: ‘I have faith in the UK Government but the situation is moving very quickly. More planes must be flown here fast or it will be too late.’
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