Man who fled Afghanistan as a child says Taliban takeover 'mentally disturbing'

Gulwali Passarlay fled Afghanistan when he was 12 Credit: Gulwali Passarlay

An author and refugee rights campaigner, who fled Afghanistan to Kent, says he is "mentally disturbed" by the Taliban's takeover of the country. 

On Monday thousands of people spilled onto the runway at Kabul Airport, some clinging to the side of a plane, in a desperate attempt to flee.

Twenty years ago, a US-led coalition invaded Afghanistan in order to topple the Taliban, but in the past six days the insurgents have captured almost all of the country and look set to declare control.

Most of the cities taken by the Taliban have been seized in the last week, but the situation has been deteriorating for months and began to get worse in April when President Joe Biden announced the final withdrawal of US troops from the country.

Taliban fighters in Kandahar Credit: AP

ITV News Meridian has spoken to a number of people from across the South, who either fled or fought in the conflict.

Gulwali Passarlay, Refugee rights campaigner

Gulwali Passarlay was smuggled out of the country at the age of 12 and fears for those who now cannot leave.

Mr Passarlay says the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan is "mentally disturbing".

Mr Passarlay said: "I have struggled to sleep in the last week or so, and this has been the longest week as I'm not only thinking about my loved ones back home but I'm thinking of the 35 million Afghans and the millions of people who are living in fear and their hopes are shattered - their aspirations are out of the window."

Jack Cummings, Veteran

Jack Cummings, a soldier from Oxfordshire who lost both of his legs in the conflict in Afghanistan, says he feels "sadness and anger" at the state of the country today.

Mr Cummings was searching for Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) in 2010 when one exploded.

Video report by ITV News Meridian's Richard Slee:

How did we get here?

After the 9/11 bombings in 2001 the US sent an ultimatum to the Taliban-controlled Afghan government demanding they hand over Osama Bin Laden and dismantle militant training camps in the country or face invasion.

The Taliban refused and the US invaded the country backed by British forces. The first UK troops arrived in Afghanistan in November 2001 when Royal Marines from 40 Commando helped to secure Bagram airfield. By December 2001, the Taliban had been toppled.

Most major combat operations ended in 2003 but by 2006 with the war in Iraq occupying US attention militant attacks began resurging.

In 2014, American and Nato troops formally ended their combat mission, transitioning to a support and training role, but soon after the Taliban begin retaking large areas of the country.

In 2020, the US and the Taliban signed a deal in Qatar confirming the withdrawal of 13,000 US troops still in Afghanistan and committing the insurgents to halt attacks on Americans.

By April 2021 peace talks between the Taliban and the government had completely failed and President Biden announced the withdrawal of the final 2,500-3,500 US troops.

The 20-year war in Afghanistan saw hundreds of UK personnel suffer life-changing injuries, with more than 450 deaths recorded.

Taliban fighters in the city of Farah Credit: AP

Families have flowed into Kabul living in parks and streets with little food or water.

Some civilians who have fled Taliban advances have said the insurgents imposed repressive restrictions on women and burned down schools.

There have also been reports of revenge killings in areas where the Taliban have gained control.

The international community continues to hold out hope for a return to peace talks, US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad brought a warning to the Taliban on Tuesday that any government that comes to power through force in Afghanistan will not be recognised.