Military figures say the UK must save interpreters who put their lives at risk for us in Afghanistan – and now live in fear of daily Taliban executions.
Up to 2,500 Afghans helped British troops in the war on terror in their country from 2001 to 2013 – with 20 believed to have died in the conflict.
But now, many more are dying as the Taliban metes out ruthless punishments.
And campaigners fear more deaths when 750 British and 2,500 US troops pull out of Afghanistan by September – 20 years since the 9/11 attacks.
One interpreter said he spends his days hiding amid fears he and his family will be hunted down and executed.
Jahir Ban, 28, who is married with two children, told the Sunday Mirror that targeted killings of interpreters are taking place every day.
Another interpreter called Nasir, who spent four months working for the British in 2009, is being hunted by the Taliban.
He said: “The Taliban knows who I am and told my father they will find me and kill me.
“I had to go to Kabul to escape. My mother then called and told me the Taliban had killed my father.”
A third interpreter claimed British officials in Afghan capital Kabul told him he must wait 12 to 18 months for his application to relocate to the UK to be processed.
The Ministry of Defence says around 450 interpreters and their families have been relocated. But many who do not meet specific criteria have been rejected – despite intimidation and even death threats.
As well as the 20 killed during the conflict, dozens more interpreters were injured serving alongside UK troops and many were left suffering mental health conditions, such as PTSD.
General Sir Richard Dannatt, former head of the Army, said: “It is a point of principle that we must stand beside those who stood beside us.
“If this means bringing a large number to the UK, then so be it.
“The Government is planning to accept hundreds of thousands from Hong Kong, so accepting up to 10,000 from Afghanistan is the right thing to do.”
Former diplomat and Army Colonel Simon Diggins wants interpreters to be granted UK residency.
Col Diggins, who was also military attache at the British Embassy in Kabul, believes as many as 30,000 Afghans need the UK’s help.
He said: “The interpreters and all Afghans who worked for the British Army, from security guards to cultural advisers, were double patriots. They wanted to help the Army because they believed in what it was trying to achieve and they wanted the very best for their country.
“But now their lives are in very real danger. They are being killed and attacked every week. Now that the British and Americans are pulling out they are in a race against time.
“My fear is that if the Taliban becomes a dominant force, the interpreters will become non-persons with very few rights.
“The least that the British Government can do is offer them and their families a sanctuary – but we must get a move on.”
Ex-Sgt Trevor Coult, who did three tours of duty in Afghanistan and won the Military Cross in Iraq, added: “There are British soldiers alive today thanks to the bravery of Afghan interpreters. The way they have been treated by the Government is a disgrace.”
Tobias Ellwood, chair of the Commons Defence Committee, said the failure to relocate interpreters in fear of their lives was unacceptable and could jeopardise future operations.
He said: “If we make promises to local people, they should be fulfilled. They provide invaluable support, not just in interpreting but in local knowledge and expertise.”
Life on the line at just 18-years-old
Jahir Ban was 18 when he became an interpreter for the British Army – serving in Helmand, where attacks by the Taliban were a daily event.
He worked with the Royal Gurkha Rifles and the Rifles Regiment from August 2011 to September 2012.
His British commander described him as a “loyal and humble individual” who “never complained about the arduous conditions and long hours”.
Jahir, now in hiding, said: “Life is very dangerous and I am very tired because I am not safe. I would like to make a new life in the UK for myself and my family. There are targeted killings of people like myself on a daily basis.”
The 28-year-old turned to the British Embassy in Kabul but claimed: “Unfortunately, they didn’t help.
“They called me back just for security advice.”