Britain will “absolutely stand by” Afghan interpreters who worked for its security forces, the Foreign Secretary said on Tuesday.
After controversy over Britain’s previous failure to allow some interpreters to settle in the UK, Dominic Raab promised that any under threat will be given shelter as Afghanistan faces a major advance by the Taliban.
Many translators faced death threats after working for foreign armies but, unlike the US, Britain has been slow to allow them entry into the UK.
Mr Raab was asked by the Foreign Affairs Committee if, with the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan, interpreters would be helped. “We absolutely want to be clear that we stand by those who served us so loyally for so many years,” he said.
Under the government’s new Afghan relocation assistance policy, 1,300 translators and their families were allowed into Britain as they were in danger of Taliban reprisals, “which reflects the fact that the situation has changed in Afghanistan”, Mr Raab told Parliament.
He spoke after Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told MPs that Britain was left with little choice but to quit Afghanistan after 20 years when the US announced its drawdown.
The Americans' decision left Britain and Nato in a “very difficult position to continue that mission” Mr Wallace said. “We are in a position that we too are in that path of withdrawal, with all the risks that may leave in the future, in the next 10 to 20 years.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to make a statement to Parliament on Britain’s continuing presence in Afghanistan after allied forces withdraw completely in the next week.
Some British special forces are expected to remain, alongside American colleagues retained largely to protect Kabul, the capital city. Ministers also proposed that RAF jets could use a base outside Afghanistan from which to strike terrorists, as they do in Cyprus to attack ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
Mr Wallace insisted that Britain would “do whatever we can” to help the Afghan government amid rising concerns over the rapid Taliban advance in several areas.
The morale of the Afghan National Army is thought to have deteriorated since the US and Nato withdrawals began. An estimated 1,000 soldiers deserted on Sunday, fleeing into Tajikistan to escape a Taliban attack shortly after the strategically important Bagram US airbase shut down.
US intelligence assessments suggest that Kabul could fall into Taliban hands within six months.