A FORMER Afghan refugee in Glasgow who fled the Taliban more than 20 years ago has described the unfolding events as “the biggest betrayal” from western forces.
Mohammad Asif, who runs the Afghan Human Rights Foundation in the city, said the deepening crisis is “unbelievable, beyond our imagination”.
The country has fallen to the Taliban following the withdrawal of Western troops, with the UK now racing against the clock to evacuate remaining UK nationals and their local allies.
Speaking to Heart Scotland News, Mr Asif, who fled the Taliban in 2000, said that to explain the situation “is really very difficult”.
He added: “In simple words, it’s like you are waking up from night terrors or nightmares. It’s like you wake up and you don’t know what really happened, you are so scared, your body is sweating, your brain is not functioning, you don’t know exactly what really happens.
“You are so scared, you hardly ever speak.
“That’s exactly how I felt and how my children and my wife and my colleagues and other members of the Afghan community feel here and also in Afghanistan.
“It’s very hard, honestly, for me to talk about Afghanistan right now but I can only say this – this is the biggest betrayal in our history.
“Yes, Afghans were betrayed before, but this is the biggest one, betrayed by America, Britain, NATO and other European countries and this is so unbelievable, beyond our imagination that this could happen within the last week.”
There are chaotic scenes in the Afghan capital Kabul, where huge numbers have been trying to flee following the Taliban’s takeover of the city. Mohammad Asif is a former refugee who fled from the Taliban in 2000, and runs the Afghan Human Rights Foundation in Glasgow: pic.twitter.com/MjBuXeZoQe
— Heart Scotland News (@HeartScotNews) August 16, 2021
His comments come as former Nato secretary general Lord Robertson said he is “sad and sickened” to see the Taliban take control of Afghanistan.
He told the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland there had been a failure in intelligence by the West, “which allowed President Biden up until the last moment to predict the Taliban would not take over swiftly in Afghanistan.
“That failure of intelligence should worry all of us about the future.”
He added: “I’m sad and sickened by what I’m seeing.
“I was the one who read out the statement 20 years ago invoking Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, saying an attack on the United States was an attack on all of the countries in Nato.”
“I find it ironic at best but tragic at worst that the anniversary of 9/11 is going to be commemorated in a few weeks’ time with the Taliban back in control of Kabul – that is deeply, deeply depressing.”
He says the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan happened “far too quickly”.
“It didn’t have to be like this.
“If we had learned the lessons of what happened in Bosnia and Kosovo then a gradual withdrawal based on facts on the ground and success on the ground may have stopped this catastrophe from happening.
“But, sadly, we don’t learn from the past, we don’t learn from previous experiences, and therefore a wholesale withdrawal of American forces meant that the country was left in a condition that has now led to the Taliban taking over.”
Earlier, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has admitted “some people won’t get back” from the country.
Mr Wallace, who previously served in the Scots Guards, appeared to choke up while appearing on the LBC radio station on Monday morning as he spoke about the evacuation effort from the country, which has fallen to the Taliban following the withdrawal of Western troops.
But becoming emotional while speaking to LBC, Mr Wallace spoke of his regret that “some people won’t get back”.
I hope UK government does similar and offers as much refuge for vulnerable Afghans as possible. As we did with Syrian refugees, @scotgov is willing to play our full part and do all we can to help those in peril as a result of the horrifying situation currently unfolding. https://t.co/BrIZFcqLUA
— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) August 15, 2021
He said: “It’s a really deep part of regret for me … look, some people won’t get back. Some people won’t get back and we will have to do our best in third countries to process those people.”
Asked why he felt the situation “so personally”, Mr Wallace replied: “Because I’m a soldier… because it’s sad and the West has done what it’s done, we have to do our very best to get people out and stand by our obligations and 20 years of sacrifice is what it is.”
Lead elements of 16 Air Assault Brigade were working with US forces to secure Kabul airport to ensure flights can continue as Afghans and foreigners alike scramble to leave.
Mr Wallace said the barrier to helping more people leave the country was how quickly they could be processed.
He told BBC Breakfast: “Our flights, our planning and coming in and out and soon if we manage to keep it in the way we’re planning to, we should have capacity for over 1,000 people a day to exit to the UK. Currently this is not about capacity on planes, it’s about processing speed, so that’s why we’re trying to fix that.”
Mr Wallace added: “Our timescale which we’d originally planned, which was August 31, will be out. We will try our very best to get everyone out, it’s one of the biggest regrets of the speed of the collapse of the Afghan government is that those timetables will no doubt have to be shortened and that’s what we’re moving extra assets to do…”
He added: “We put in over 600 forces yesterday, today and over the weekend to make sure that we can keep a secure part of the airport functioning and, at the same time, to effectively process, manage and escort people on to our flights to get them out of Afghanistan.”
Mr Wallace said the Government was aiming to fly out a further 1,500 people over the next 24 to 36 hours or slightly longer.
Kabul airport has so far not come under attack but there are fears that could change quickly with Taliban insurgents now effectively in control of the capital.
Triumphal fighters were pictured in the presidential palace abandoned by President Ashraf Ghani, who fled the country while his forces gave up the city without a fight.
Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood, a former captain in the British Army and chairman of the Defence Select Committee, criticised the West for pulling out of the country.
Appearing on Sky News, he said: “The world is now a little bit more dangerous because they’ve now taken control of the country, and the West should really hang its head in shame after abruptly abandoning Afghanistan to a civil war after two decades of effort.”
Following a meeting of the Government’s Cobra emergencies committee on Sunday, Boris Johnson said his priority was to get UK nationals and Afghans who had worked with them out of the country “as fast as we can”.
Elsewhere, Nicola Sturgeon said Scotland is willing to accept refugees fleeing Afghanistan as the Taliban retakes the country at lightning speed.
The First Minister said her administration was ready to play its “full part”, as it had when it accepted 2000 refugees from the Syrian civil war after 2015.
It is understood the Home Office is already looking for hotel space to provide short-term accommodation for refugees in Glasgow and other Scottish councils.
Writing on Twitter, Ms Sturgeon highlighted the work of the Canadian government, which is helping to resettle 20,000 Afghans threatened by the brutal Islamist group
She said: “I hope UK government does similar and offers as much refuge for vulnerable Afghans as possible.
“As we did with Syrian refugees, @scotgov is willing to play our full part and do all we can to help those in peril as a result of the horrifying situation currently unfolding.”
Around 4,000 British nationals and eligible Afghans are thought to be in the city and in need of evacuation.
In a sign of the desperate situation, the British ambassador Sir Laurie Bristow was said to be helping the small team of diplomats still in the country to process the applications of those hoping to leave.
There was particular concern for the safety of Afghans who worked with British forces when they were in the country as interpreters and in other roles amid fears of reprisals if they fall into the hands of the insurgents.
The Taliban insisted that they were seeking a peaceful takeover of power and were prepared to offer an amnesty to those who had worked with the Afghan government or with foreign governments.
However those assurances were being treated with deep scepticism by many British MPs amid reports of threats to those who remain and their families.
Labour called on the Government to urgently expand the resettlement scheme for Afghans to ensure that none were left behind.