RAF C-17 aircraft at Kabul airport during evacuation flights from Afghanistan 200821 CREDIT MOD
RAF C-17 aircraft at Kabul airport during evacuation flights from Afghanistan (Picture: MOD).
Afghanistan

Afghanistan: MOD Refuses To Comment On Claims Only 99 Interpreters Evacuated

The Sulha Alliance claims only 99 former interpreters were evacuated during Operation Pitting at Kabul airport.

RAF C-17 aircraft at Kabul airport during evacuation flights from Afghanistan 200821 CREDIT MOD
RAF C-17 aircraft at Kabul airport during evacuation flights from Afghanistan (Picture: MOD).

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) has refused to deny claims that fewer than 100 interpreters, who worked alongside British forces in Afghanistan, were evacuated from Kabul during Operation Pitting.

The MailOnline reported research by the Sulha Alliance, which works with former interpreters and their families in relocating to the UK, said only 99 were evacuated from the Afghan capital with their families during the operation in the final two weeks of August.

And, when asked for comment, the MOD refused to comment specifically on the claims.

"During Operation Pitting, we worked tirelessly to safely evacuate as many people out of Afghanistan as possible, airlifting more than 15,000 people from Kabul, including thousands of ARAP applicants and their dependents," an MOD spokesperson said.

"We will continue to do all we can to support those who have supported us, and our commitment to those who are eligible for relocation is not time-limited and will endure. 

Watch: Afghanistan – Taliban soldiers kidnapping and killing former interpreters.

"The ARAP scheme remains open to applications and we will continue to support those who are eligible.

"We cannot comment on individual cases," the spokesperson added. 

The MailOnline story and the response come as recent figures from the MOD show just 850 applicants to the Government's Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) scheme have been accepted since the start of April –  with 6,800 outstanding.

Data from the MOD shows 60,000 applications to the scheme were received between April and August 2021.

However, on 17 September, James Heappey, Minister for the Armed Forces, said in a written response that 52,350 were rejected and 6,800 were still being processed.

This means just 850 (1.41%) applications were accepted during the period.

In a separate written response, Mr Heappey also said just 213 ARAP-eligible Afghans were evacuated between April and and the beginning of Operation Pitting on 13 August.

Shadow Armed Forces Minister Stephen Morgan said the revelations showed the Government was "out of touch" during the immediate crisis.

"Despite the very best efforts from our Armed Forces, this government has woefully mishandled the crisis in Afghanistan," he said.

Watch: Sir Keir Starmer - 'Government doesn't have a plan to get everybody out' of Afghanistan.

"These figures reveal the Government's systemic failure to plan for the withdrawal in the 18 months following the Doha agreement and prioritise the safety of British nationals and brave Afghans who supported our forces."

"While Ministers claim the ARAP scheme is still open, this will be cold comfort to those still on the ground, now living in fear under Taliban rule. 

"The Defence Secretary is yet to set out a credible plan to secure the safety of those the Government has left behind."

A group of Afghan interpreters who worked for the British Army have held protests outside the Home Office in London, demanding more protection for translators still stranded in Afghanistan.

Operation Pitting, the UK's evacuation of Kabul, came to a close when the last dedicated flight purely for the evacuation effort from Afghanistan left Kabul on 28 August.

The Taliban have since taken control of the last province to resist their rule in Afghanistan, Panjshir.

Since the evacuation concluded, UK officials and the Taliban have held talks over how to secure "safe passage" out of Afghanistan for British nationals and Afghan allies.

It comes amid fears the militant group would try to execute former UK staff trying to leave the country.

If you or someone you know needs support at this time, you can find more information by visiting the British Army website and the Government's website.

Further details about support available can be found on our website.