As per British Foreign Office Minister James Cleverly 167 Afghans are still trapped in Afghanistan, but former Defense Minister Johnny Mercer negated it and said that the numbers of Afghans left behind are in thousands, reports Asian Lite News
Thousands of Afghans who helped British forces fight against the Taliban are still stuck in Afghanistan, reported a UK-based newspaper.
As per British Foreign Office Minister James Cleverly 167 Afghans are still trapped in Afghanistan, but former Defense Minister Johnny Mercer negated it and said that the numbers of Afghans left behind are in thousands, reported Sputnik.
Cleverly confirmed that of the 311 former UK staff and their family members left behind in Afghanistan, more than half (167) remain trapped in the country.
“We have left thousands behind, not 167. Those are simply the ones who had a response to the ARAP (Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy) programme. Those figures are simply the number who were called forward but didn’t make it to the airport,” said Mercer.
Interpreters and other local staff who had worked with British forces told the UK newspaper that they are in hiding in Afghanistan with their families because the Taliban is “searching” for them, reported Sputnik.
Mercer said that “the vast majority” of people who should have been evacuated from Afghanistan under the ARAP program were left behind, because the British scheme was ineffective and thousands didn’t get a response.
“All the ministers know this, but they are determined to move on from our commitments to these people,” Mercer said.
The Taliban took control of Afghanistan in mid-August and on September 7 announced the composition of an all-male interim government headed by Mohammad Hasan Akhund, who has been under UN sanctions since 2001.
British national arrested in Kabul
A British citizen has been reported missing in Afghanistan after being arrested by the Taliban in Kabul.
Grant Bailey, an NGO worker, was detained amid a security crackdown in the capital, the Daily Mirror reported.
The reasons for his arrest have not been made public.
The British Foreign Office said that an investigation into the incident has been opened.
A spokesman said: “We are aware of the detention of a British national in Afghanistan and have been in touch with their family to support them.”
Bailey is believed to have returned to Afghanistan in September shortly after the Taliban takeover of the country.
A Foreign Office source said: “We were quite surprised he went back to Kabul after the Western withdrawal, as the security situation there is obviously much worse.
“Added to that, the Taliban government is making it very difficult for the few expats working there, making it very difficult to travel.
“A lot of people are trying to get to the bottom of what has happened to him, where is being held and under what charges.”
Britain seeks to engage Taliban regime
Meanwhile, amid the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that Britain must engage with the current Taliban government to tackle the existing crisis in the country.
Johnson made the remarks in response to a question UK lawmaker in the parliament, TOLOnews reported.
Stating that Afghanistan looks like ”hell on earth”, Labor Party member Sarah Champion asked PM Johnson “how and when” will aid that has been pledged by the UK be provided to the people of Afghanistan.
Johnson explained that Britain had no other choice but to engage with the current Afghan government to assist the overcoming of crisis in the troubled nation.
“There is no point in the UK just standing on the sidelines and failing to engage with the Taliban,” he said.
“They may not speak for all Afghans, far from it, but they are some kind of authority – even if a very imperfect authority. The UK must try to engage, for the sake of the people that you’re talking about,” PM Johnson said.
“We welcome the remarks of the British Prime Minister. The official engagement will definitely make Afghanistan’s relations better with the world. The gates of understanding and negotiations are opened by the Islamic Emirate. If there is any challenge, it can be solved via this path,” said Inamullah Samangani, deputy spokesperson for the “Islamic Emirate” of Afghanistan.
This comes as experts in the region believe that the world’s engagement with Afghanistan will help overcome the existing crisis in the country.