24 August 2021

Afghan army officer witnessed ‘humanitarian disaster’ before evacuation to UK

24 August 2021

An Afghan army captain has described the “humanitarian disaster” she witnessed in Taliban-controlled areas as she fled to Kabul airport before being evacuated to the UK.

Captain Muraal, a 26-year-old captain in the Afghan army, has been evacuated as part of the UK Government’s Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (Arap).

Footage released by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) shows the officer boarding a British military plane with others fleeing Afghanistan after passing through checks with UK armed forces at Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport.

Capt Muraal, whose surname is not being released for security reasons, has been evacuated alongside her immediate family due to the danger they also faced.

Captain Muraal at Kabul airport as she boards a British military plane to be evacuated to the UK from Afghanistan (Ministry of Defence/PA) (PA Media)

She said: “We were accepted for relocation to the UK. It has been difficult to get to safety but we made it through because of the British military. We are safe here at the airbase and we will be safer still in the UK.”

Capt Muraal continued: “The route to safety was harsh – a humanitarian disaster.

“People waited many nights as the Taliban controlled the first gate. There was a lot of suffering.”

The captain served in the Afghan National Army for eight years, having been trained at the United Kingdom’s Defence Academy in Shrivenham.

She also studied for a Masters in military and security studies at King’s College London.

To board an evacuation flight, the captain had to cross a number of Taliban checkpoints to reach British troops at Kabul airport.

In a video released by the MoD which shows Capt Muraal at Kabul airport, she said: “We had a lot of challenges, the first challenge was how to get out of our house because all of the city is controlled by the Taliban and finally the gates are very crowded and they were also controlling the gates and were not letting people in.

“With the support of British forces we have made it through here today and I am really glad for that.

Captain Muraal as she boards a British military plane (Ministry of Defence/PA) (PA Media)

“I feel very relieved and my concern is now trying to get inside the airport to get out of here and I am fully happy we are able to make it today.”

She added: “It feels great and I am relieved to be here inside the airport and I think my family are safe now.”

More than 7,000 Afghans who were eligible to apply for relocation to the UK under Arap have arrived safely in the UK since April 2021, according to the MoD.

More than 5,000 of those have been evacuated from Afghanistan by the armed forces since August 13.

Capt Muraal said she plans to continue her studies in the UK and wants to “help the British military in any capacity that I can”.

The UK’s programme to evacuate Afghans and British nationals from Kabul airport is known as Operation Pitting.

On Monday, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace stressed the urgency of the operation, saying there were “hours not weeks” to evacuate as many UK passport holders and Afghans from the country as possible.

Captain Muraal plans to continue her studies in the UK (Ministry of Defence/PA) (PA Media)

On Tuesday the US government, which has led the international military coalition in Afghanistan, said it was not prepared to extend its withdrawal date beyond August 31.

Once the evacuation operation is finished, the UK Government intends to start a “second phase” of its resettlement programme for Afghans who do not want to live under Taliban rule.

On Monday, armed forces minister James Heappey said Afghans would be able to apply for resettlement to the UK in refugee camps or at British embassies in countries neighbouring Afghanistan in the near future.

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