LONDON: An Afghan interpreter who hid in a Kabul basement when the Taliban stormed the capital has found British troops he worked with during the war in Afghanistan.
Josh Roberts, Paul Standen, Sam Knight and Vance Bacon-Sharratt owe their lives to the interpreter, known as “Abdul”, who kept them informed of Taliban attacks and movements while being attached to their patrols.
The soldiers contacted a lawyer after Abdul was refused entry to Britain following a government ruling that his “presence in the UK would not be conducive to the public good”.
After being granted the right to settle in Britain, Abdul met the soldiers at a cafe in Canterbury, southern England, sharing a touching moment and stories over breakfast about their time working in Helmand Province.
Abdul, who brought his wife and two daughters to Britain, told The Times the government had twice denied him entry into the country because he was seen as a ‘national security’ threat .
The soldiers, from the English Midlands, sought support from Natalia Garcia, a lawyer specializing in national security cases.
Garcia launched a judicial review of the decision, arguing that Abdul was a hero who had “saved” the lives of British troops in Helmand.
Faced with a court hearing, the government stepped in and passed Abdul’s resettlement request, ultimately confirming that he posed no risk.
When US-led NATO forces in Afghanistan were withdrawn last August, Abdul, 32, hid in a friend’s basement with his wife and their 4-year-old daughters. and 2 years, for almost six months.
The family was hidden from the Taliban, who launched a campaign of revenge against those who worked with Western forces during the conflict.
In March, the family fled to Pakistan with the help of British veterans.
Bacon-Sharratt, 33, told The Times: “I suffer from (post-traumatic stress disorder), so when the news of the Taliban takeover came out, it affected me tremendously. Abdul sent me a message saying the Taliban were nearby executing people in the streets. I really struggled with that.
The soldiers said they had challenged the government’s blocking of Abdul’s arrival because the Mercians could not leave “a man behind”.
Roberts, 30, said: “Abdul actually saved our lives in Afghanistan. He was the one who interpreted the Taliban’s code system, telling us that we couldn’t move because there was a sniper on us.
The soldiers said they considered Abdul one of their own.
According to Standen, 31, the interpreter saved the lives of his troops “on more than one occasion”, including during intense contact in November 2011.
“He warned us that something was brewing and a few minutes later a shooting broke out. Who knows what would have happened if he hadn’t understood that the Taliban were coming? This is the only warning we received. »
Bacon-Sharrat said that on another occasion the soldiers were “sitting ducks”. But Abdul intercepted radio traffic suggesting a militant attack was imminent, allowing the troops to escape the ambush.
Walking into the Canterbury restaurant over the weekend, Bacon-Sharratt said he and Roberts ‘stopped dead’ when they saw Abdul’s daughters.
“We just looked at each other and it was just this really full moment where we were both completely suffocated,” he said.
Standen said: “We just went out and had breakfast and coffees, and wandered around Canterbury. Last time we all had helmets and now we could walk around safely. I really felt a bit in tears.
Abdul told the British newspaper he was grateful that his daughters could go to school in Britain and plan a university education. But in the meantime, he needed a job.
“Everything is awesome,” he said. “I hope I can learn new skills and work in dishes, production or agriculture, maybe a store. I really don’t mind.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “During Operation Pitting we have evacuated 15,000 people from Kabul, and we continue to do everything we can to ensure safe passage and allow British nationals and eligible Afghans to leave the country.”