Labor criticized Tory ministers for having a “public scrap” over the fate of Afghan special forces soldiers who fought with the British and called on the government to bring them to safety in the UK.
Shadow Defense Secretary Luke Pollard has urged ministers to ensure members of two elite units, known as The Triples, are sheltered to help Britain in the war against the Taliban.
Soldiers in the two units, Commando Force 333 and Afghan Territorial Force 444, were trained and paid by Britain and worked “shoulder to shoulder” with British forces in the war in Afghanistan.
The independent revealed in a joint investigation with Lighthouse Reports and Sky News that some of the commandos were tortured or killed by the Taliban after the Ministry of Defense refused them asylum in Britain.
A rift has emerged in government over the fate of Afghan soldiers, with different departments arguing over how many will qualify for relocation to the UK. Defense Secretary James Hippie had downplayed the help that could be offered when he spoke to MPs last week, saying soldiers were “not automatically given room to relocate”.
Two days later, Veterans Minister Johnny Mercer and Security Minister Tom Tugendhat appeared to contradict Mr Heappey and argued that Afghan special forces should be given sanctuary in the UK.
Mr Pollard has now written to Mr Heappey asking him to clarify the Government's position and supported Mr Mercer and Mr Tugendhat's push to help the soldiers.
In the letter communicated with The independent, said: “Could you now please clarify which position on the Tripartite and Arab (Afghan Movement and Aid Policy) program is official government policy: the one you presented to the Commons on Monday 11 December. or what the Minister for Veterans expressed on December 13th in the Commons, shared by the Minister for Security? They can't both be right.”
He continued: “I encourage you to do everything you can to ensure that the Triples are secured. I understand that other NATO members have brought personnel from similar units to their countries and given the high level of public support for these troops, why can't the UK do the same?'
The letter comes as Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer showed support for British troops stationed in a visit to Estonia on Thursday.
A YouGov poll found that 51 per cent of Britons think members of the Triple Crown should be allowed to settle in the UK, compared to just 19 per cent who think they should not.
This included Tory voters who supported their relocation by 48 per cent in favor to 26 per cent against.
Mr Pollard criticized the “contradiction of positions and confusion between ministers”, adding: “A public scrap between the Ministry of Defense and the Office of Veterans Affairs is not helping.”
He said there was “strong cross-party support to give the Triplets asylum in the UK” and asked Mr Heappey to update Commons MPs on the situation in the new year.
Colonel Simon Diggins, a former defense attaché in Kabul, said: “The case for accepting the Triples should be ironclad and unassailable. Not only were they working directly to support the objectives of the UK government. were paid directly by us.
“Because of the nature of their roles they are particularly threatened by the Taliban. I strongly support cross-party calls, including from government ministers, for the Triples to be accepted without delay: lives, quite literally, depend on it.”
Major General Charlie Herbert, who served with the Triples in Afghanistan, said: “No other Afghan force has been more closely aligned with the UK armed forces during the war in Afghanistan than CF333 and ATF444. Without their contribution, it is likely that many more British servicemen and women would have been killed or injured between 2003 and 2021.
“Given the real, proven and ever-present threat of reprisals and reprisals from the Taliban, it is up to the UK to provide them with the sanctuary they so desperately deserve and need.”
A government spokesman said “the UK government's offer under Arap is one of the most generous of any country”.
They added: “We have worked incredibly hard to bring over 14,300 people to safety through the scheme, but not everyone who served alongside British forces will be eligible.
“Each Arap application is assessed individually and in accordance with published policy and we do not automatically make a decision on eligibility based on a job role.”