Not often that this blog has very much positive to say about the UK military but this is an exception.
Gen Sir John McColl, who served in Afghanistan as the first head of Nato’s International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) in Afghanistan told BBC Radio 4’s World at One that the defence secretary, Ben Wallace, and other ministers should “hang their heads in shame” in regard to the treatment of Afghan refugees.
Two RAF flights carrying as many as 500 Afghans who worked with British forces and their relatives are landing in the UK each month from Pakistan but there is deep frustration within the Ministry of Defence about how the rest of government is struggling to accommodate arrivals. The MoD sources accused other parts of Whitehall of “struggling” to know what to do, and failing to put adequate plans in place.
Britain’s original evacuation of Afghans was “random” and at times dogs had been prioritised over people, he said, adding: “The system was broken when we withdrew from Kabul last year and it remains broken. It was a source of shame then and it continues to be a source of shame.”
Sources at the MoD said that about 1,050 people who were brought out of Afghanistan under Arap were currently in hotels in Pakistan, awaiting processing and transportation to the UK or another destination.
About 6,200 people – including some 1,200 “principals” who worked for the UK, and typically four to five members of their families – are currently understood to be eligible for relocation under the Afghan relocations and assistance policy (Arap), one of two government programmes. The figure includes some who are still in Afghanistan and others who have made it out, more often than not to Pakistan, though Afghans have also attempted to cross the border into Iran, where the strained relationship between Britain and the regime in Tehran complicates the ability to help people. The Arap scheme has brought more than 10,100 eligible Afghans to the UK while another, the Afghan citizens resettlement scheme (ACRS), will allow up to 20,000 to settle in Britain.
However, there has been strong criticism that the UK has effectively abandoned many Afghans to persecution and execution under the Taliban for the crime of having worked with British forces and officials.
Nine expert groups on Afghanistan criticised the British government’s resettlement schemes as “unjustifiably restrictive”. They said it was deeply concerning that the government was currently not offering a safe route for many Afghan women and girls or to oppressed minority groups.