Yorkshire veteran is fighting to get a family out of Afghanistan

A British Army veteran from Harrogate said he is prepared to take “drastic” action to get a family out of Afghanistan after the Taliban took control of the country.

Former sergeant major Rob Smith with Omar in Afghanistan
Former sergeant major Rob Smith with Omar in Afghanistan

Former sergeant major Rob Smith, who served with the Royal Corps of Signals, is urging the Government to rescue the family of a man called Omar, who he worked with at Camp Souter in Kabul.

They bonded over a shared passion for boxing after meeting in 2010 and coached locals at the camp. Mr Smith said this helped the Army build a relationship with the local community and it made soldiers working in the area “safer on the ground”.

Omar died in a car accident last year, but his young wife, daughter, two sisters and parents are now hiding from the Taliban and fear for their lives because they supported British soldiers.

They are trying to get to the UK under the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP), which was set up by the Government to relocate those who are at risk because they supported British forces in Afghanistan during the 20-year military campaign, and submitted an application on August 17.

Mr Smith has written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Home Secretary Priti Patel, Harrogate MP Andrew Jones and several other politicians to appeal for help, but has been told no action can be taken until the family are provided with a reference number.

“They haven’t had a reference number back from the ARAP application they put in,” he said.

“I'm going in circles because until they get a reference number of any description or type I can't fight on their behalf over here.

“They’re worried sick about what might happen. They’ve basically just closed down shop, and stayed in the house.

“It's got to be very scary because a big city becomes very small when you've got the Taliban on every vehicle checkpoint.

“I don't know what to do next and it’s getting really frustrating because the longer we leave it, the closer the Taliban will get to picking them up.”

He added: “I served for 24 years in the military and I’m now classed as 40 per cent disabled, but if it goes on too long, I will find a way to get there. I know that sounds drastic, but if I have to get boots on the ground, I will do it.

“I don't mind dropping in, because the family made me feel so welcome. When I was in Kabul they helped out so much, especially Omar, I feel so indebted to him.”

The last British troops left Afghanistan on August 28, after evacuating more than 15,000 people over two weeks, but the Ministry of Defence said it is committed to helping those who qualify for the ARAP scheme make their way to the UK.

The MOD does not comment on individual cases, but a spokeswoman said: “We will continue to do all we can to support those who have supported us, and our commitment to those who are eligible for relocation is not time-limited and will endure.

"The ARAP scheme remains open to applications and we will continue to support those who are eligible.”