Ex-British soldier arrested by Taliban after failed bid to help 400 Afghans cross land border

Ex-British soldier arrested by Taliban after failed bid to help 400 Afghans cross land border
A former soldier, who was arrested and questioned by the Taliban, has slammed the UK Foreign Office for failing to provide the necessary documentation for 400 Afghans attempting to cross safely to a neighbouring country.
2 min read
03 September, 2021
Crossing a land border out of Afghanistan is increasingly difficult following the closure of Kabul airport and surge of applications for visas to neighbouring countries [source: Getty]

A former British soldier was arrested and imprisoned by the Taliban on Thursday following a failed bid to get 400 Afghans across a land border. 

Ben Slater, who runs a chain of NGOs, was unable to secure an evacuation flight for the Afghans before US and NATO forces left Kabul airport, marking the end of a 20-year mission in the country. 

The 37-year-old then attempted to get Afghans, many of whom work for him, to a third neighbouring country but he was arrested at a land border and questioned by the Taliban about his staff, which includes single women sleeping in hotel rooms near the checkpoint without husbands. 

Released later that same day, Slater was told he could travel across the land border with one assistant, but the rest of his party - who do not have visas to travel to the UK - must stay in Afghanistan.  

“The final blow to the op is that the UK are only granting myself and one of my executive assistants over the border today, and they haven’t even suggested they are going to issue the visas for some or the rest of my group,” the ex-soldier told The Telegraph. 

“It’s a complete disaster really. It’s disgusting. It’s beyond horrible,” he added. 

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Slater said he will continue efforts to evacuate the remaining members of his group, despite the closure of Kabul airport and the difficultly of securing safe passage for Afghans across land borders to countries such as Pakistan and Iran. 

The Taliban have given assurances that "all foreign nationals and any Afghan citizens with travel authorisation from our countries" who wished to leave the country could do so, in a joint statement with the US and more than 90 other countries on Sunday. However, many question the sincerity and longevity of these assurances. 

British forces ended their evacuations from Kabul airport last week, just days before the US deadline for the complete withdrawal of troops on 31 August. 

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Thursday he had “good conversations” with the Qatari Emir and FM of Qatar about the possibility of reopening Kabul airport, but nothing is finalised yet. 

Raab is also speaking with neighbouring countries, including Pakistan, in a bid to allow safe passage for Afghans. 

He has refused to give an exact figure on the number of Britons, Afghans and others on evacuation lists left behind after the UK's withdrawal. 

UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has said there are as many as 1,100 Afghans who were entitled to come to the UK still awaiting evacuation in Afghanistan. 

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