British aides: an Afghan battalion for the UK?

Ahe last rescue flights from Afghanistan – the British brought a total of 15,000 people to safety – also included hundreds of elite soldiers from the Afghan National Army. They had helped the 1,000 British soldiers with their evacuation efforts at the airport in Kabul until the end. Will the comrades from the Hindu Kush soon fill the thinned ranks of the British Army? This is what influential foreign and security politicians, supported by former generals, are calling for.

“If you want to serve, we should welcome you,” said Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the House of Commons. The soldiers, who had been trained by the British and fought at their side, had “proven their loyalty a thousand times”. While some politicians advocate regular integration into the army, Tobias Ellwood, chairman of the defense committee, suggests integrating it as a separate unit, similar to the “Gurkhas”.

Model of Nepalese Gurkhas

The Nepalese Gurkhas have been associated with the army of the former Empire for more than 200 years. Their incorporation was also the result of a war, though not a lost one. When the soldiers of the East India Company fought against the kingdom of Gorkha – from which later Nepal arose – together with the surrounding small empires, they offered defectors to join their own ranks. After the peace treaty of 1816, recruitment was formalized. From then on, the Gurkha Brigade served the British not only in the Indian colony, where they helped, among other things, to put down the Sepoy uprising of 1857 – the British Army still speaks of the “Indian mutiny” – but on almost all fronts of the Empire .

In the two world wars, their number rose to 250,000 soldiers. Since the Gurkha regiments were split between independent India and the United Kingdom, it has fallen to a few thousand. Until the handover of Hong Kong to China, the Gurkhas were mainly stationed in the former crown colony. Since then, the three battalions have been spread across Brunei and, above all, Great Britain. Most of the units are based in the English counties of Kent, Nottinghamshire and Hampshire. After smaller operations in the Falkland Islands and the Balkans, among others, Gurkha infantrymen fought briefly on the front lines in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The brigade today consists of around 4,000 men. If the Afghan soldiers were accepted according to the Gurkha model, they would have a right to stay for the duration of their service, which would be converted into a permanent status after retirement. The Gurkhas had to fight for these rights after they were not only underpaid for a long time, but also forfeited their right of residence when they stopped working.

According to a report in the Daily Telegraph, a senior general recently informed MPs that the Afghan elite soldiers had been “undercover” by the British for the past two weeks. They mingled with the crowd at the airport and swarmed into Taliban-controlled areas to identify local staff and hand them over to British soldiers. The Afghan elite soldiers, said the former head of the Joint Forces Command, General Richard Barrons, are “also very good by international standards”. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who gave a televised address on Sunday at the end of the evacuation mission, promised to help all Afghans who had arrived “to contribute in every possible way to the life and economy of this country”.

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