Horror as British ex-soldier arrested by Taliban after attempt to rescue 400 Afghans fails
Kabul airport: US military vehicles 'abandoned' after withdrawal
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Ben Slater, 37, was attempting to help Afghan citizens, including 50 staff members from his NGOs across a land border in the Middle East. The attempt comes following the militant group’s takeover of Kabul’s airport following the final UK extraction flight leaving the nation earlier this week.
The staff members and their families failed to secure a place on the final British aircraft, and are still unable to leave the Taliban-controlled area as the former soldier’s evacuation attempts were stopped.
A coach carrying the staff members was turned away by jihadists, at a land border between Afghanistan and another undisclosed country.
Mr Slater was arrested by the Taliban and questioned over the rescue efforts, before being released.
The ex-soldier’s aid to those fleeing is due to his increasing concerns that the jihadists will not stick to their vow of letting those fleeing their rule to leave the country unharmed.
According to The Telegraph, Mr Slater had previously assisted in the evacuation of dozens of Afghans but was unable to secure help for his staff, hence the need to start his own attempt at a rescue operation.
Most of the staff members are single women who occupied hotel rooms near a border checkpoint, and traditionally the Taliban is known for its ill-treatment of women.
Following his arrest, Mr Slater was released and was told he could leave the country with just one of his staff members, but that the rest of the group must remain in Afghanistan.
Mr Slater, who is a former Royal Military Police member, is attempting to obtain visas for the staff members who work at the chain of NGOs he runs in Afghanistan.
The incident which occurred on Thursday has sparked concerns that the Taliban will not stick to their previous pledge allowing people to leave the country since they took control.
On Sunday however the Taliban rebuked these claims by assuring a 100-nation group that it would still allow foreign nationals and Afghans with foreign travel documents to leave the area.
In a statement from the group, a declaration was issued reading: “We have received assurances from the Taliban that all foreign nationals and any Afghan citizen with travel authorization from our countries will be allowed to proceed in a safe and orderly manner to points of departure and travel outside the country.”
The group, which includes the United States, the United Kingdom and France also added: “We are all committed to ensuring that our citizens, nationals and residents, employees, Afghans who have worked with us and those who are at risk can continue to travel freely to destinations outside Afghanistan.”
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Concern was raised as prior to the ceasing of rescue operations by the US and UK, reports claim that the Taliban were stopping people from travelling in proximity to the airport, subsequently preventing them from evacuating.
Mr Slater has redoubled his efforts to acquire visas for his staff from the UK or another Western country, according to an interview with The Telegraph.
The ex-soldier has called the situation “a complete disaster”, stating that “it’s disgusting. It’s beyond horrible” as he called upon the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) to help evacuate the Afghans out of the area.
He told The Telegraph: “The final blow to the op is that the UK are only granting myself and one of my executive assistants over the border today, and they haven’t even suggested they are going to issue the visas for some or the rest of my group.”
Since the final evacuation flights left the region, Kabul airport is currently non-operational, and no arrangements have been made by the UK Government with the countries sharing a land border with Afghanistan to facilitate escape routes for those who are unable to leave via the nation’s capital airport.
At present efforts to re-open the airport to provide safe passage and freedom of movement for Afghan citizens is of the utmost importance, and is something which Qatar confirmed it was working on alongside the Taliban, with attempts to reopen the airport “as soon as possible”.
In a news joint conference with his British counterpart Dominic Raab in Doha, Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said “It’s very important… that the Taliban demonstrate their commitment to provide safe passage and freedom of movement for the people of Afghanistan.”
The Middle-Eastern country is said to be working with the Taliban in order “to identify what are the gaps and the risks of having the airport back up and running.”
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