Afghanistan

How Sandhurst group chat saved lives of Afghan couple fleeing Kabul

An Afghan has told Forces News how officer training colleagues at Sandhurst saved the life of him and his partner.

A message sent to a Sandhurst officer training group chat unexpectedly saved the lives of an Afghan couple attempting to flee Kabul.

Before the Taliban's rapid return to power began to unfold in the summer of 2021, Najeeb was an intelligence officer in Afghanistan, cultivating contacts to gather intelligence on Taliban insurgents.

His partner Gohar worked as a prosecutor, building cases against men who had committed crimes against women.

Najeeb and Gohar's work made them Taliban targets and they applied to be evacuated to the UK.

The application was approved and they were told to head for Kabul immediately where British military personnel were overseeing the UK's evacuation mission. 

However, when they reached the airport, the scenes were manic, with people struggling to leave.

"I was scared because I thought I was not able to go to the airport, there were too many people crowded behind these doors," Najeeb said.

Leaving came down to an extraordinary chance of luck, when Najeeb sent a message to an online group chat from his Sandhurst training in 2018.

He asked if there were any people currently operating in Kabul airport, "and after like five minutes, one of my platoon men luckily sent another message to me".

"He basically dragged me from the crowd inside the airport and he saved me," Najeeb said. 

Gohar said she "couldn't find the words" to explain the moment.

British soldier at Kabul airport during the UK's evacuation mission last August
British soldier at Kabul airport during the UK's evacuation mission last August (Picture: MOD).

More than 1,000 troops, diplomats and officials were dispatched to Afghanistan to rescue UK nationals and Afghan allies after the country's capital fell to the Taliban – airlifting more than 15,000 people to safety in just over a fortnight.

Many more eligible Afghans who aided British forces are still waiting to reach the UK.