Afghan intelligence analyst praised for ‘key role’ by RAF advisers facing Rwanda deportation

Analyst is a ‘talented and hardworking individual’ who is ‘a likely target for the Taliban’

Holly Bancroft
Social Affairs Correspondent
Sunday 13 August 2023 08:20 BST
Migrants in a dinghy sail in the Channel
Migrants in a dinghy sail in the Channel (AFP/Getty)

An Afghan intelligence analyst who played a “key” role in helping the British military in Kabul has been threatened with deportation to Rwanda after fleeing to the UK on a small boat.

The man, who gathered information to help coalition forces plan operations against the Taliban in Afghanistan, says he was forced to make the dangerous journey because he could not afford to wait for help through official routes following the fall of Kabul.

He applied for sanctuary in Britain two years ago under the Ministry of Defence’s Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (Arap) scheme but has heard nothing.

The scheme is open to people who worked with and for the UK government. One British adviser described his work as having “a meaningful and positive effect on the UK’s national security interests in Afghanistan”. Another RAF colleague said his insight “undoubtedly furthered the UK’s military and national security objectives”.

The man has now called on Rishi Sunak to give him sanctuary in Britain. Speaking to The Independent from a government hotel in the Midlands, he said: “The government pledged that it would help those who have supported British interests in Afghanistan – and they haven’t.

“They did the initial evacuation but now we have no alternative but to take the Channel way.”

His Arap application has been supported by two of his RAF supervisors, who worked with him in their roles as advisers, and his case has been raised by his local MP with defence minister James Heappey three times.

But in May, the man – credited by his supervisors as being a “hardworking individual” – received a notice from the Home Office telling him he was being considered for removal to Rwanda.

The man worked in the presidential palace in the Office of the National Security Council (ONSC), a department that was initially funded by the UK and was a hub within the Afghan government for intelligence sharing.

Thousands of Afghans were evacuated in August 2021 but many more were left behind (MoD Crown/Getty)

Those working inside the unit would provide the Afghan president and British and Nato forces with information needed to plan missions against terrorist threats within Afghanistan.

The Afghan analyst worked on strategic communications operations for the Afghan government among other things. One British adviser he worked closely with said he “demonstrated personal integrity and professionalism to his Nato colleagues” and described him as a “talented and hardworking individual” who is “a likely target for the Taliban”.

The analyst played a “key supporting role” for the Afghan government, with the backing of Nato, he added. “His education, skills and expertise leave me in no doubt that he can contribute effectively to UK society.”

One of his Afghan colleagues at the ONSC, who has been accepted under Arap and is now living in a rented flat in the UK with his wife, described their work, saying: “We supported the Afghan army but we also shared information with the British and Nato force.

“If they were planning an attack on the Taliban, or they needed to make a plan, they would need information from a local area. We would use our local sources and intelligence and share it with Britain and Nato.”

He described the ONSC as a “focal point” between Afghan and British forces where information for Psyops and counterterror operations would be planned.

Sir Nicholas Kay, a former UK ambassador to Afghanistan, told The Independent that the UK should “honour our past ties” to Afghans who worked in the Office for the National Security Council and should “welcome former partners who managed to get to the UK and not deport them”.

The Court of Appeal ruled in June that the UK government’s return agreement with Rwanda was illegal, though Mr Sunak has vowed to challenge the decision in the Supreme Court.

Sir Nicholas said: “UK links to the ONSC were deep and far-reaching. We helped the ONSC to be an important tool for coordinating cross-government efforts to counter the Taliban.

The analyst said he was not able to come to the UK safely, like these refugees who were evacuated during Operation Pitting (AFP/Getty)

“The UK had a close and strategic partnership with the Afghan Office of the National Security Council over the last two decades. HMG initially funded the entire office, salaries and a new building within the palace complex. We put considerable financial and human resources into the ONSC because it served our strategic interests.

“Over the years, many of its staff developed close professional and personal ties with the UK. Under the Taliban, I have no doubt that many of them will be at risk because of their previous work with the ONSC and the UK.

“UK-funded advisers based in the British embassy worked within the ONSC until at least 2019. UK military advisers seconded to Nato worked with the ONSC until 2021.”

The analyst told The Independent that he had come to the UK because he had family based here, could speak fluent English, and because of his previous work.

He said: “In the UK I thought I would have a better chance because I already had a case here. I waited and waited to hear from the Arap unit but still heard nothing other than automatic replies. Out of desperation, I had to leave my wife behind in [a third-party country] and I tried to enter the UK through whatever means possible.

“My wife is not safe there and it is not a friendly country to immigrants. I am scared she will face deportation from there back to Afghanistan.”

A government spokesperson said: “Those who fear persecution should claim asylum in the first safe country they reach and not put their lives at risk by making unnecessary and dangerous journeys to the UK.

“The number of people risking their lives by making illegal and dangerous Channel crossings is unacceptable. That is why we have introduced legislation which will ensure those arriving in the UK illegally may be detained and promptly removed to their country of origin or a safe third country.

“We do not routinely comment on individual cases.”

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