A former Afghan colonel has revealed he rejected an offer by a Russian intelligence agency of cash, a new passport and relocation to Russia “or anywhere in Europe”.
He had been hoping instead for a UK visa. With that dream now shattered, and his family barely able to afford to put food on the table, he says that he regrets his decision.
Col Ahmad Ahmadi rose quickly through the ranks of Afghanistan’s army, becoming a Lieutenant Colonel in just four years.
As a legal adviser to the Kabul Air Brigade and a member of the Afghanistan Airstrike Targeting Board, he worked alongside senior RAF and US Air Force officers at the Joint Operational Intelligence Centre in Kabul to select targets and co-ordinate major strike packages against Taliban insurgents.
But the collapse of the government in August 2021 left senior officers, who had not succumbed to corruption, destitute and on the run from Taliban killers. Fearing for his life and forced to provide for his family, Ahmad fled to Iran to work.
And it was in Tehran, two years later, that he was approached by an Afghan businessman working for Russian intelligence.
“My first contact was through Facebook,” said Ahmad, from his home in Afghanistan.
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“The man introduced himself as an Afghan businessman normally resident in Russia, and said he had an opportunity for me.
“I thought he was a human trafficker who could get me to the West so I agreed to talk on WhatsApp.” It soon became clear that the man, purporting to work for a company called GSK Management Company, was not what he seemed.
“Although our chat was general at first, he revealed that he knew a lot about my military background. “I suspect he was told this by another Afghan officer.”
The “businessman’s” intentions soon became clear. “He showed me a link to an article about EUCOM, the US European Command, which was co-ordinating aid to Ukraine through multinational logistics cells, and began to ask me about my experiences in co-ordinating and planning strikes with the Nato-style air strikes planning system.
I began to understand. When you have the right co-ordination between different logistical, combat and support resources you can fight faster and respond to threats faster.
“It was six months after the invasion of Ukraine, and Russia had already removed two generals. It could not establish the necessary co-ordination in the logistics, combat and support forces.
“Ukraine suffered less from this challenge because its forces had the support and advice of Nato.” In November last year, the middleman finally showed his hand.
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“I was offered a few thousand dollars in travel expenses and invited to go to Russia, where I would meet senior individuals. I was told they would offer me and my family new passports and a relocation package in Russia.
If I didn’t want to live in Russia I would eventually be given a new home anywhere in Europe.” Ahmad was told to show a letter of introduction – seen by the Sunday Express – to the Russian embassy in Tehran, which would grant him visas for St Petersburg.
It was a tempting offer because as he had refused to resume his duties as legal adviser to the Afghan Air Force under Taliban control, Ahmad’s family had been evicted from the property they owned.
“It was our only capital in the world. Now my family has to pay rent to live in another house.” One of his brothers was tortured and eventually fled with Ahmad to Iran.
Ahmad said: “In the past two years I borrowed more than $20,000 (£16,000) to cover my family expenses, with double interest. In such a situation, it was very difficult to convince my family – and even myself – that saying no to the Russian proposal was right, normal and moral.
“But I am no lover of dictators and certainly not of Vladimir Putin. Also, I worried that collaborating could make me a human rights violator.
So I refused. I was bombarded with messages to reconsider, and they increased the financial offer, but I refused, hoping my loyalty would help me to get a visa in the UK. It did not.”
Despite a glowing recommendation from an RAF Wing Commander, Ahmad’s hopes were dashed because he had not worked directly for UK forces. He met the same fate with a US application.
Now his future rests with finding underground work in Afghanistan, where he was forced to return after work in Iran and Pakistan dried up.
“When I see the situation facing my family and the indifference of Western countries I have always considered friends, I think that maybe by not going to Russia I made a big mistake,” he said.
Justin Crump, CEO of the Sibylline strategic risk group, warned of the dangers of ditching those who have helped the cause.
He said: “If we abandon allies, we also abandon the information they possess. While this colonel may have rejected it, it’s little wonder if others actively take up such offers.”
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