LONDON (Agencies): According to a BBC report, British special forces have reportedly intervened to deny resettlement applications from elite Afghan troops who fought alongside them against the Taliban. This move has raised concerns as it could potentially prevent these Afghans from providing evidence in an inquiry into alleged misconduct by UK forces during the Afghanistan war.

The report suggests that British special forces were given the power to veto Afghan relocation applications, leaving hundreds of veterans in a state of uncertainty and at risk of reprisals from the Taliban. The UK Armed Forces minister, James Heappey, acknowledged that the initial process was “not robust” and announced a review of approximately 2,000 applications.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) review coincides with a public inquiry into alleged misconduct by UK special forces in Afghanistan, leading to concerns about a potential conflict of interest. An anonymous former British special forces member told the BBC that the headquarters had the power to prevent Afghan special forces colleagues and potential witnesses from reaching the UK safely.

Claims have been made that British special forces illegally killed 80 civilians in Helmand province between 2010 and 2013. Afghan military personnel in the UK could theoretically be asked to provide evidence in the ongoing inquiry.

Afghan units who served in “meaningful roles” with British special forces during operations in Afghanistan are eligible to apply for UK resettlement under the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy (ARAP) scheme. However, the BBC reported that “hundreds” of applications have been rejected, citing leaked documents. The report also noted that “dozens” of Afghan troops have been tortured or killed by the Taliban since the group took power in August 2021.

The public inquiry will hear evidence from former British army officer and current UK Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Johnny Mercer, who is expected to confirm that war crimes allegations against UK troops are credible. The inquiry had previously heard allegations of Afghan civilians being fatally shot in their sleep during raids in 2011 and 2012 as part of a broader policy of “executing Afghan males of a fighting age” even if they posed no immediate danger.

The Ministry of Defence stated that it is conducting a “case-by-case review” of Afghan relocation applications and will “consider all available evidence” in the process.

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