Minister meets former Army Chiefs campaigning to save Afghans

Ministers finally bowed to pressure yesterday and met former military chiefs to discuss the plight of Afghan interpreters ‘abandoned’ to the Taliban.

Armed Forces Minister Penny Mordaunt spoke to ex-defence heads who have voiced fears about Britain’s hardline policy on the translators.

The talks marked a major breakthrough for the Daily Mail’s Betrayal of the Brave campaign highlighting how the Taliban is targeting interpreters because of their work with UK forces.

Miss Mordaunt listened to the concerns of General Sir David Richards, ex-chief of the defence staff, General Sir Mike Jackson, former head of the Army, and Lord West, former head of the Royal Navy. 

She will meet Lord Dannatt, another ex-Army chief, next week.

The former military leaders, in command during the Afghanistan war, have called for those who risked their lives with UK troops to be given sanctuary here. 

The discussions were seen as a significant boost for the interpreters, with the Government acknowledging its policy towards them needs to be addressed.

The Mail has revealed how:

One of the UK’s most senior translators was targeted after being shown on TV working for David Cameron;

A nine-year-old boy was murdered because of his interpreter uncle’s work;

A translator for Gordon Brown and the SAS was shot by the Taliban – and his pregnant wife beaten so badly that she lost her baby;

Last month a former British military interpreter, 22, was shot dead on his doorstep by the Taliban;

Not one of 200 ex-translators who say they face intimidation and death threats has been granted sanctuary in the UK.

Shadow defence secretary Vernon Coaker said their plight was ‘scandalous’. 

It comes after a Mail-backed petition, calling for the translators to be given refuge here, hit 147,000 signatures.

Miss Mordaunt also listened to the concerns of General Sir David Richards, ex-chief of defence staff and Lord West, former head of the Navy.

Lord West said yesterday: ‘I think we are on the right track. I put across my concerns … and they were very receptive to what I was saying … I think they understand how important it is we look after those who helped us and they are now working hard to make sure we do.’

He has described the policy, which allows interpreters to the UK only if they have served for a year after 2011, as ‘brutally restrictive’ and ‘unjust’.

Lord Dannatt, head of the Army when British troops served in Afghanistan, said the UK ‘could not have done the job’ without translators and had a ‘moral obligation’ to help.

Sir David praised the Mail’s campaign and said he was ‘ashamed’ of how interpreters had been treated. 

Sir Mike added that the UK must ‘stand by’ those who risked their lives on the frontline. 

A defence source said: ‘The discussions show the minister is open to their views.’

Major James Driscoll, who began the petition, said last night: ‘The Government needs to properly address this issue and it cannot be brushed aside now … I would like to thank everyone who has signed the petition and the Daily Mail for alerting the issue to the public and the Government.’

Labour MP John Woodcock, a former defence select committee member, called for the issue to be debated in parliament.

The MoD said: ‘We challenge any allegation that the Government is not honouring its duty of care to Afghan interpreters.’ 

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