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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - LONDON: Hundreds of former Afghan special forces who fought the Taliban will have their rejected applications to resettle in the UK reviewed following a major U-turn by the government, The Independent reported on Tuesday.
The move follows an investigation by the newspaper into the UK’s treatment of the former soldiers, who belonged to the Afghan Commando Force 333 and Afghan Territorial Force 444 elite units, known as the “Triples.”
Despite working “shoulder to shoulder” with UK partners in the war against the Taliban, the soldiers were denied sanctuary in Britain following the Western withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Many were subjected to torture and six former members were killed in reprisal attacks by the Taliban after being denied resettlement in the UK, the investigation showed.
It also found that in most cases, their resettlement applications were not properly considered by government officials, despite the soldiers appearing to fulfill the criteria of the UK’s Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy.
In other cases, those reviewing the applications ignored evidence of the Afghans’ ties to British forces, including payslips and ID cards.
But the government’s U-turn, which follows months of pressure from the investigation, means that the former soldiers will likely be resettled in the UK from Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan along with their families.
Campaigners who supported The Independent’s investigation praised the decision, but urged the government to abandon its “case-by-case” strategy to review the applications.
Former British defense attache in Kabul, Col. Simon Diggins, said he was “pleased to hear that the government has committed to review the Triples’ cases.”
He added: “The MoD (Ministry of Defence) has finally acknowledged — as has been long argued by many veterans — that these Afghan soldiers, who were paid by as well as trained and mentored by the UK, deserve our support and sanctuary.”
But he warned that the “case-by-case review strategy must not be used as a delaying tactic.” Diggins said the resettlement process “must take days, not years,” because of the dangers that the soldiers still face living in Afghanistan.
This week, the MoD is set to release a parliamentary statement on the decision.
Afghanistan consultant at the Refugee Aid Network, Sarah Fenby-Dixon, said: “This apparent change in government policy towards the Triples is very welcome and long overdue.
“It is testimony to the tireless campaigning by lawyers, journalists and volunteers who recognized the horrific threats and attacks faced by these men as a direct result of their work alongside UK forces.
“It is now imperative that the government does everything in its power to relocate these men and their families as soon as possible.”
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