An airplane carrying more than a dozen Afghans employed by British forces, along with family members, are expected to land at a Midlands airport later Tuesday.
The Department of Defense (MoD) declined to comment on the theft – first reported by the Daily Mail – due to safety concerns for the men, women and children who asked to flee Afghanistan after receiving threats from the Taliban.
Taliban militants are strengthening across the country, regaining more territory to the Afghan government backed by the United Kingdom and the United States. It comes as British, American and other NATO forces prepare to retire within the next three months after nearly 20 years of conflict.
The Taliban regard anyone associated with the US-NATO-led mission in Afghanistan as a traitor who deserves to die.
The increased influence of the militant group means a corresponding risk for these personnel.
Concerns over the safety of former employees, mostly interpreters, prompted the Defense Ministry and the Interior Ministry in May to expand the eligibility criteria for a resettlement program for Afghans seeking to flee .
Previously, the government had resisted pressure to allow large numbers of men and women to relocate, saying such a move would deprive Afghanistan of a pool of young talent, vital for the country’s future prosperity.
More than 3,000 Afghans are expected to take advantage of the offer, in addition to the 1,300 who have already made the trip under a previous more restrictive policy. They should be flown to the UK in groups.
It is understood that the first flight left Kabul earlier on Tuesday. Everyone had to undergo strict security as well as COVID– related health checks.
Afghanistan is on the red list of countries, which means the group will be quarantined upon arrival in the UK.
The Daily Mail spoke to a 37-year-old former interpreter, Hash, who served in Helmand with the military between 2007 and 2012 and who would be part of the first part with his wife and two sons.
“We are so happy and so grateful,” he said. “The UK government took its time but did the right thing and we are really grateful to them. ”