Matthew Leeming

Kabul is now a city of the dead

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I lived in Kabul for nearly ten years. I had a house there for many years and I loved being there. I loved the sense of life on the edge — even at the risk of sudden death — and the extraordinary array of interesting people who visited. I later became a partner in a fuel distribution business in Kabul, with a contract to supply the jet fuel used by Nato. We supplied $2 billion worth of jet fuel, amounting to around 100,000 tons a month, giving Nato the ability to bomb the Taliban.

Several Afghans worked for me, friends as well as colleagues, and over the past few weeks I’ve been trying desperately to get them out of the country, but have come up against the brick wall of government bureaucracy. One of my old colleagues was also, for ten years, an interpreter for British forces. We were promised by the government that all such people would be given asylum in Britain.

But this promise — which they and I believed — turns out to be utterly empty. I recently received a formulaic civil service email which read: ‘Regrettably these cases fall outside the MoD-administered Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) because it is not relocation of former locally employed staff of HMG in Afghanistan.’ According to official Ministry of Defence figures, of the 6,500 applications for the ARAP scheme, just 1,200 were accepted, 3,500 rejected and the rest left to linger in the system. In the case of the interpreter, his rejection is nonsense. He worked for numerous British officers who provided written references. And anyway, why should my other colleagues, who risked their lives to provide support to Nato, be consigned to death? These people are not economic migrants crossing the Channel in an inflatable dinghy.

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