An Afghan pilot at the center of a deportation row in the UK must be granted asylum by the government, a former Royal Air Force chief in Afghanistan has told The Independent.
Air Marshal Edward Stringer, who is also former director of operations at the UK’s Ministry of Defence, backed a campaign by the newspaper encouraging the government to grant the pilot sanctuary.
The Afghan, who was praised by his US commander after serving alongside Western forces against the Taliban, served in dozens of combat missions.
In the wake of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in 2021, the pilot made the journey to Britain via Europe on a small boat. He has been threatened with deportation owing to the illegality of the journey.
Stringer, in an op-ed for The Independent, wrote: “Many of those in the Afghan forces served with distinction alongside us — and the Taliban will never forget that.
“We owe them all a debt of honor and should offer them asylum, and the security we promised them, in the UK — not least because we could not guarantee them safety and security in Afghanistan. Now is the time for us to demonstrate the decency on which we so pride ourselves.”
Stringer worked with NATO and Afghan forces as head of the 904 Expeditionary Air Wing in 2008.
He oversaw the training of a range of Afghan military personnel during the Western coalition’s conflict with the Taliban.
“The Taliban know as well as we do that we helped train the Afghan pilots (I remember vividly the start of that mission in Kandahar in 2008) and we should stand by those brave men — like the pilot you are campaigning for — now,” Stringer wrote.
“We must offer safe haven to the pilot who risked his life to fight alongside us. And we must be generous to all his comrades now, in their hour of need.”
Stringer is joined by a number of high-profile British military figures who have backed The Independent’s campaign in calling for the pilot to be offered sanctuary.
Former British Army chief Sir Richard Dannatt, former NATO chief Lord Robertson and former chief of joint operations Gen. Sir Richard Barrons have urged the granting of asylum for the pilot.
Stringer also criticized government measures aiming to safeguard at-risk Afghans, claiming that bureaucracy is leaving people behind.
“The limited numbers making it via the various schemes and safe routes, and the bureaucratic cock-ups along the way, suggest that the system is not as joined-up across government departments as it might be,” he wrote.
“I am not surprised some have had to take to the small boats to cross the Channel to the country they so readily served. We must repay the debt we so clearly owe them.”
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