Call for Britain to help military's Afghan interpreters
April 06, 2013 - 10:11:00 am
LONDON: British military, political and academic figures on Saturday called on the government not to "abandon" the Afghan interpreters for the troops when they pull out of the country.
In a letter to The Times newspaper, they said there were roughly 600 interpreters helping British forces, largely in the troubled southern Helmand province, with many now fearing Taliban reprisals as British troops start to withdraw from the country.
"The British military's job in Afghanistan would have been impossible without local interpreters, who have risked their lives and made extraordinary sacrifices just like British soldiers," the letter says.
"Many of these courageous men are living in fear of Taliban reprisals."
The letter argues that Britain has a "moral obligation" to help protect the men from threats of retribution from Taliban insurgents once the last British combat troops leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
The signatories include General Mike Jackson, the former professional head of the army; Paddy Ashdown, a former high representative for Bosnia-Hercegovina; and Michael Clarke, director-general of the Royal United Services Institute defence think-tank.
"After the Iraq War the UK gave Iraqi interpreters asylum in this country, but shamefully Britain is the only NATO country yet to do this for Afghan interpreters," they claimed.
"Britain has a moral obligation to support this small number of brave men who put themselves in grave danger so that British soldiers could do their jobs."
The Times said that to date, about 20 interpreters working with British forces in Afghanistan have been killed in action, with dozens more wounded.
In December, Prime Minister David Cameron said Britain would withdraw 3,800 of the country's 9,000 troops from Afghanistan this year, as NATO prepares for a full security handover to Afghan forces at the end of next year. (AFP)