Ben Slater: Ex-British soldier arrested by Taliban for trying to rescue 400 people
Ben Slater, a former British soldier, was reportedly arrested by the Taliban while attempting to evacuate 400 Afghans. The 37-year-old was thrown in prison on Thursday morning, September 2 and was reportedly questioned regarding members of his immediate staff, numbering 50 people, most of whom are single women. They had been staying in hotel rooms near a border checkpoint.
The former member of the Royal Military Police is the chairman of a string of NGOs, the Nomad Concepts Group, which operated out of Kabul. He had been attempting to evacuate his staff over a land border after failing to secure spots for them and their families on the British airlift from Kabul.
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But his mission failed after a coach carrying the staff was turned away at a land border. As per the latest reports, it is not clear which country the coach was attempting to cross into. Slater was released later on Thursday and told he could cross the border with one assistant, but that the rest of his staff had to remain in Afghanistan, according to the publication. He told the paper that he will try to secure visas for his staff from the UK or another Western country.
Slater once again called on the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) to help get them out of Afghanistan. The FCDO has advised British citizens still in Afghanistan to make their way back to the UK via a third country. "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."
Kabul airport is not operational following the US withdrawal on Monday, August 30, 2021, and as per reports, the UK Government did not make arrangements with the countries sharing a land border with Afghanistan to facilitate escape routes before the fall of Kabul on August 15, 2021.
In a bid to get assistance as soon as possible, Slater shared his plans to escape via a land border with the FCDO and the Ministry of Defence. According to the publication, Slater had already helped dozens of Afghans flee the country but was unable to secure help for his staff.
Who is Ben Slater?
Ben Slater is the chairman of a string of NGOs, the Nomad Concepts Group, which operated from Kabul before the Taliban siege. He had formerly served in the Royal Military Police for ten years, where he worked as a bodyguard to British ambassadors abroad.
As per the publication, before attempting the land escape, Slater described himself as being "massively let down" by the UK Government. He told publication, "I was given one hour's notice to send in my people's names, the vehicles and stuff like that. And that seemed a little bit like that was set up for me to miss the deadline. But we did it, and then it went sort of quiet, and then there was a little bit of "oh, you can't come because you can't get through the Taliban checkpoint""
Eventually, after being transferred to an automated call centre and put "back at zero", Slater "lost his marbles". That is when he says he launched his own operation to save the 400 Afghan nationals including the 50 staff and himself. Even though the Taliban made assurances that they will allow those fleeing their rule to leave the country unharmed, Slater is concerned that they will turn back on their word.
The Telegraph reported an FCDO spokesperson as saying, "More than 15,000 people including British nationals, our Afghan staff and others at risk have been evacuated from Afghanistan by the UK since 15 August in one of the biggest operations of its kind in history. We will continue to do all we can to deliver on our obligation to get British nationals and eligible Afghans out of the country while the security situation allows."