The former head of the Army has accused ministers of “disrespect” in the Afghan interpreters row as he said the Government had dismissed the views of senior military personnel.
General Lord Dannatt hit back at a letter signed by the Home and Defence Secretaries in which they said the UK had been at “the forefront of nations relocating people” since the US announced its withdrawal earlier this year.
They insisted that it was “prioritising” those on the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy who were most at risk.
However, Lord Dannatt told The Telegraph that the letter, which was written in response to more than 35 retired senior military commanders urging the Government to allow thousands more Afghans who worked with British forces to relocate to the UK, was “verging on the disrespectful”.
He added that it “does not give sufficient weight to the views of the 35 senior officers who have been intimately involved in the Afghanistan campaign for the past 20 years”.
He said: “I would urge our senior politicians to deal with this important issue of Afghanistan interpreters and local employees, and then the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary should engage with the Kabul government to encourage their authorities to stand up and repel the Taliban.”
Lord Dannatt called on “politicians and statesmen to do their jobs”, adding: “We owe that to the 457 lives that we lost in that country. We don’t just walk away. We have to keep supporting the Kabul government to stand on their own two feet and face down the Taliban.”
Troop numbers in Afghanistan
In the letter, signed by Priti Patel and Ben Wallace, they cautioned that a “balance between generosity and security” was required when it came to the relocation scheme.
They also said while they acknowledged interpreters were “most at risk”, regular intelligence suggested those employed “behind the wire in military bases”, such as cooks and cleaners, would be unlikely to face reprisals by the Taliban.
“We do not therefore support the view that all Afghans who performed roles in support of international forces in Afghanistan are at risk of reprisals from the Taliban,” they said.
Their letter, published on the government website on Wednesday, also said that since 2014, the UK had relocated almost 1,400 locally employed staff and their families to the UK, adding that in recent weeks they had relocated “nearly another 1,400” and would relocate a further 2,500 people “as soon as possible”.
They said the scheme would “remain open indefinitely” and that “there is no quota or cap on total numbers”.
Despite this, Labour has questioned why if some 7,000 Afghans supported UK forces throughout their involvement in Afghanistan, more than two-thirds of interpreters remain stranded in the country.
Stephen Morgan, the shadow armed forces minister, said: “Interpreters and their families are in mortal danger on a daily basis. It is clear ministers either do not understand the urgency of the situation on the ground or are comfortable with a laissez-faire approach.
“Leaving even one person behind would be an unforgivable dereliction of our moral duty to those who bravely served with UK forces.”