MoD apologises for asking Afghans to get Taliban’s approval to come to UK

Citizens who worked with British government or helped army told to get necessary documents stamped by the authorities

The Ministry of Defence has apologised after an investigation found Afghan applicants to a resettlement scheme were told they could only come to the UK if their documents were approved by the Taliban.

The Independent revealed that the mistake affected applicants to the Afghan relocations and assistance policy scheme (Arap), which aims to relocate Afghan citizens who worked with the UK government or helped its armed forces in Afghanistan. The MoD decides which applicants – who may apply with their families – are eligible for relocation to Britain.

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Inquiry launched into claims SAS soldiers killed Afghan civilians

MoD concedes to longstanding demands for statutory inquiry into allegations dating back to 2010

Ministers have announced a statutory judge-led inquiry into allegations of more than 50 summary killings by SAS soldiers in Afghanistan, a decision made after years of reports that elite British troops killed civilians in cold blood.

In a statement to the House of Commons, Andrew Murrison, the minister for defence people, said the Ministry of Defence (MoD) would concede to longstanding demands for an “independent statutory inquiry” after years of dismissing the idea. The inquiry will cover the period from mid-2010 to mid-2013.

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UK accused of letting refugees make dangerous Indian Ocean boat journeys

MoD personnel escorted refugees away from Diego Garcia in boat with no record of having radio or lifesaving equipment, lawyers say

Lawyers have accused the UK of facilitating dangerous onward boat journeys by Tamil refugees who had arrived at the British-claimed territory of Diego Garcia in distress.

Fishing boats that fled Sri Lanka were escorted to the Indian Ocean island after getting into difficulty but the same vessels were later permitted to leave without basic safety equipment, putting passengers – including children – at “grave risk”, lawyers have claimed.

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‘Political pressure’ claims in inquiry into alleged SAS killings of Afghans

Emails disclosed by lawyers for two families of victims suggested police told to ignore role of senior officers

“Political pressure” was applied in 2016 to narrow the focus of a military police investigation into allegations of summary killings by SAS soldiers in Afghanistan, according to a legal claim made in the high court on Tuesday.

An email disclosed to lawyers representing two families of Afghans killed by the SAS showed that the second in charge of the unit investigating the alleged war crimes, had told colleagues about demands being made from higher up.

An SAS officer, discussing the Saifullah family case in an email dated May 2011, asked whether there was an opportunity “to ‘nip’ this allegation before it becomes an official allegation and is fed into either the national or Isaf chain of commands in Kabul, attracting lots of scrutiny”.

Concern about the SAS tactics, techniques and procedures in Afghanistan were raised in 2011 by an external organisation, whose identity the MoD wants to keep secret, which warned that the British soldiers were using unlawful techniques to kill Afghans in cold blood.

Neil Sheldon QC, for the MoD, told the court that the government wanted disclosure of the organisation’s full evidence and name to be prevented by a public interest immunity certificate. The application, he said, was being made on “international relations grounds”.

The chief MoD lawyer acknowledged in an email sent in the run up to a previous hearing in early 2020 that the SAS explanations for the summary killings in 2011 “appear highly questionable, if not implausible, not helped by the practice of post-mission ‘cut and paste’ statements” and that the MoD should “review all incidents involving fatalities”.

His deputy suggested in another email that the UK should investigate “the conduct” of UK armed forces in Afghanistan and “the investigative and prosecutorial response of the RMP [Royal Military Police] and the SPA [Service Prosecuting Authority]”.

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Afghan embassy staff remain in hiding despite being eligible for UK relocation

UK government accused of leaving former employees and their families ‘in limbo’ in Afghanistan, where they are targets for the Taliban

More than 170 people who worked for the British embassy in Kabul remain in hiding in Afghanistan in fear for their lives, almost a year after the Taliban retook the country.

A list of Afghans currently in hiding, seen by the Guardian, shows almost 200 former interpreters, security guards and local staff waiting for a response from the Ministry of Defence and the Home Office, the departments responsible for relocating people at risk. All of those on the list are eligible for transfer to the UK under the Afghan relocations and assistance policy (Arap), intended to bring those formerly employed by the UK government, and their family members, to safety in Britain.

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RAF plane to fly up to 40 Afghans to UK as evacuations resume

Flight carrying translators and others who have escaped Taliban to land at RAF Brize Norton on Friday

An RAF flight of Afghan translators and others who have escaped the Taliban is due to land in the UK on Friday, the largest single evacuation by Britain since the Kabul airlift ended in August.

Between 30 and 40 people are expected to land at RAF Brize Norton, having got out of Afghanistan via a route the Ministry of Defence wants to keep confidential to protect future evacuees.

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Revealed: UK forces linked to deaths of nearly 300 Afghan civilians

MoD compensation logs show just £2,380 paid on average, with more than 80 children among victims

British forces are linked to the deaths of 86 children and more than 200 adult civilians during the Afghanistan conflict, with compensation of just £2,380 paid on average for each life lost, new figures reveal.

They are recorded in official Ministry of Defence (MoD) compensation logs, obtained by a series of freedom of information requests. According to the data, the youngest recorded civilian victim was three years old.

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‘They left us to die’: UK’s Afghan aid staff in hiding from Taliban

Evacuation of employees, not contractors, ‘splitting hairs’, says HRW, warning of days left to save lives

Afghan employees who worked as contractors on UK aid projects fear for their lives after not being granted resettlement in Britain.

The Guardian has been in contact with four families who said they had been targeted by the Taliban because they worked for the UK government, and have now been forced into hiding.

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Britain must rediscover the will to lead on global issues | Tobias Ellwood

The withdrawal from Afghanistan is folly and has highlighted glaring faults in Whitehall

“The war in Afghanistan is over,” proclaimed Joe Biden. How wrong he will be proved to be.

This was never a baseball game that simply folds when we all walk away, yet that is how Biden sold it to his fellow Americans, even though combat operations had ended in 2014.

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Ex-marine Pen Farthing and pets cleared for Afghanistan evacuation

MoD says founder of Kabul animal shelter has passed security at airport but does not mention charity staff and families

Paul “Pen” Farthing, who founded an animal shelter in Kabul, has made it through the airport’s security and is awaiting a flight out of Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has said.

The former Royal Marine and his supporters had been campaigning to get his staff from the Nowzad charity shelter as well as their families, 140 dogs and 60 cats evacuated from the country in a plan he named Operation Ark.

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Fresh hope for ex-marine’s efforts to rescue 200 cats and dogs from Kabul

UK defence secretary says Paul Farthing, his team and animals can leave on chartered plane

A former Royal Marine who has been campaigning to have dozens of people and hundreds of animals at his sanctuary evacuated from Afghanistan has been offered a glimmer of hope after the defence secretary said UK officials would help.

Paul Farthing, known as Pen, had already been given authorisation to get his people out but continued working with supporters to secure safe passage for 140 dogs and 60 cats they were caring for at the Nowzad shelter he founded in Kabul after serving with the British army in Afghanistan.

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Too little, too late: why it was panic stations in Whitehall as Kabul fell

How the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan precipitated a political one at the heart of UK government

On Thursday last week, the defence secretary, Ben Wallace, had tried to sound composed as he announced a small number of British troops were heading out to Afghanistan. Six hundred were being sent to Kabul, he explained, to help Britons and their support staff return to the UK in an orderly manner.

His calmness belied a panic that was already sweeping Whitehall, as ministers and officials watched in horror at the Taliban’s capture of provincial capitals. Wallace, at least, gave the impression of wanting to take charge when other, more senior members of the cabinet were less visible – and in Dominic Raab’s case, invisible.

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Row erupts in cabinet over evacuation of UK diplomats from Kabul

Exclusive: defence secretary accuses Foreign Office of leaving MoD staff to handle visa fallout, say sources

Cabinet splits have emerged over Afghanistan, with the defence secretary, Ben Wallace, accusing the Foreign Office of evacuating diplomats while leaving soldiers and Ministry of Defence staff to handle the fallout of the Taliban takeover.

The frustrated minister told colleagues he believed there would be “a reckoning” for the Foreign Office after the crisis, sources told the Guardian.

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