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A former British soldier was arrested by the Taliban as he tried to evacuate 400 Afghans over a land border to a third country, The Telegraph has reported.
Ben Slater, a former soldier in the Royal Military Police and CEO of Nomad Concepts Group, an Afghanistan-based consultancy, has been trying to evacuate his 50 staff members and their families from the country since the Taliban seized control last month.
As he was unable to secure UK visas for his staff members ahead of the end of the UK’s air evacuation mission in Kabul, Mr Slater launched an operation to take them out of the country over a land border instead.
The 37-year-old, who used to work as a bodyguard to British ambassadors abroad, hired a coach which brought him and 400 Afghans to a land border, where they waited for two days in a hotel near the checkpoint.
On Thursday morning, however, Mr Slater was arrested by the Taliban. He was subsequently thrown in prison and questioned about his staff, many of whom are single women, staying alone in hotel rooms, a practice that is at odds with the Taliban’s rules for women.
By the end of the day, Mr Slater had been released from prison, and told that he would be permitted to cross the border with one assistant. The rest of his staff and their families were forced to return to Kabul as they had not been granted UK visas, nor had their passage into a third country been successfully negotiated.
The former soldier said that he would do all that he could to secure visas for his group – either from the UK or another western country – pleading for the foreign office to act on their behalf.
“The final blow to the op is that the UK are only granting myself and one of my executive assistants over the border today, and they haven’t even suggested they are going to issue the visas for some or the rest of my group,” he told The Telegraph.
“It’s a complete disaster really. It’s disgusting. It’s beyond horrible.”
The ongoing concern is for the welfare of those who travelled to the border with Mr Slater, particularly the women.
Already, the Taliban have urged women and girls to stay home, in what they say is a “temporary policy” intended to protect them from untrained fighters who could “mistreat” women. The group has also said that although women and girls will be permitted to work and attend same-sex schools, they will still require a male escort for longer trips.
These policies echo mandates from the last Taliban regime in the late 1990s, which forbade women from working and attending school, and prevented them from leaving the house without a male guardian.
Mr Slater’s former colleague CJ Adams-Richardson told The Independent: “we’re not quite sure what the implications of Slats’ actions are, and what’s going to happen with regards to the women”.
Ms Adams-Richardson, who served in the British Army, said that she was concerned about the repercussions of Mr Slater’s actions, specifically his traveling with women, due to his status as a westerner and a man, but added, “but that’s Ben all over – he’s a humanitarian”.
The Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office was contacted but was not immediately available for comment.
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