Royally let down Afghan employees feel 'betrayed' by Britain

Interpreter for Prince Charles reveals colleagues stranded in Afghanistan are being 'taken from their homes' by Taliban

Afghan interpreter Nazir Ayeen has family left behind in his homeland. Photo: Nazir Ayeen

Prince Charles’s interpreter in Afghanistan has condemned the British government for failing to “stand shoulder to shoulder” with people it employed and leaving them at the mercy of the Taliban.

After the Foreign Office whistleblower allegations on the inept evacuation operation by politicians and officials, Nazir Ayeen told The National that Afghans feel “very, very betrayed”.

Foreign Office official Raphael Marshall, 25, revealed on Tuesday that only 5 per cent of the 150,000 Afghans who applied for the British evacuation were able to get out, leaving behind many to suffer Taliban retaliation.

The junior civil servant painted a grim picture of the UK’s response to the Taliban's takeover of Kabul in August, detailing bureaucratic chaos, a short-hours working culture and a stark lack of planning at the government department.

Mr Ayeen, who is now in Britain, described the whistleblower’s comments as “very accurate”.

“It was a disgraceful evacuation that the British government made in Afghanistan. I feel very, very betrayed,” said the former interpreter who translated during the visits of high-profile figures, including Prince Charles in 2010 and William Hague when he was Foreign Secretary.

“The whole process was very messy and confusing. It did not have trained and professional people installed on the planning who could recognise the danger that the people who had worked for foreign governments faced,” he said.

“I think there could have been other ways to evacuate Afghans, especially those who stood shoulder to shoulder with the British government to the very last point. They have been neglected in a bad way.”

Nazir Ayeen, centre, worked as interpreter for Prince Charles in Afghanistan. Photo: Nazir Ayeen

Mr Ayeen, 32, who interpreted on operations with the Royal Marines and the Scots Guards in Helmand for three years until 2010, said he knew of many Afghans left behind who are living in fear of retribution.

In evidence published by the UK's foreign affairs select committee on Tuesday, Mr Marshall, who worked for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office during the evacuation, said that at one point he was the only person monitoring an email inbox where pleas for help were being directed.

He described the chaos of the “dysfunctional” operation in London while senior officials, including the then foreign secretary Dominic Raab, were on holiday.

The head of the Foreign Office, Sir Philip Barton, said he regretted taking a 17-day holiday during the peak of the crisis, only returning on August 26 – 11 days after the Taliban had captured the Afghan capital. “If I had my time again I would have come back from my leave earlier,” Sir Philip told MPs.

Mr Ayeen described Mr Raab’s decision to remain on holiday in the Mediterranean as a major error, suggesting it was the greatest "neglect of diplomatic priority in the history of diplomacy in the Foreign Office".

While the Taliban promised an amnesty for workers of foreign powers, their fighters took a different view. “I hear stories day by day of all the Taliban officers asking for people who worked with the UK and US governments," he said. "They have been taken out of their homes and not returned."

He recounted how his friend, a leading employee of the British, had been in the queue for evacuation when the Abbey Gate suicide bomb detonated at Kabul airport, killing 183 people.

“He lost his child," Mr Ayeen said. "He went to bury the boy and then, the next day, he went back to the airport and was refused entry. He now moves from house to house to avoid capture."

Having dealt with many leading political figures and worked as a political officer in the British embassy in Kabul, Mr Ayeen said he was surprised that the UK could not use its influence on Pakistan to pressure the Taliban “to negotiate a durable peace”.

His mother, two brothers and two sisters remain in Afghanistan.

Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat, an Afghanistan veteran and chairman of the British Parliament’s foreign affairs committee, said the “failures betrayed our friends and allies and squandered decades of British and Nato effort”.

He said it showed the evacuation operation to be “one of lack of interest and bureaucracy over humanity”.

Another MP, Nus Ghani, described a “humiliating reality shaming our international reputation", while fellow Conservative politician Alicia Kearns said the chaotic withdrawal was “a catastrophe of incomparable nature”.

Updated: December 7th 2021, 7:05 PM