Diplomat from Wales on Afghanistan mission to help people flee the Taliban
A DIPLOMAT from Wales has told how he cradled a tiny baby in his arms as he helped its mother flee Afghanistan after her husband had been killed by the Taliban.
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office desk officer Rhys Annett was part of the UK’s Rapid Deployment Team deployed to Kabul to help over 15,000 Brits and Afghans escape.
Rhys, 29, from Brecon, in Powys, mid-Wales, spent a week in Kabul helping to get people out – and missed the explosion that killed 170 people by just two hours.
The Welshman has given a glimpse into what life was like being at the heart of the emergency operation.
He admitted: “It was a harrowing experience because you were dealing face-to-face with families in the most desperate situation.
“Probably the most vivid memory I have is a woman who had baby twins, aged about seven or eight months old. Their dad had been killed by the Taliban.
“She could not carry the twins by herself so was basically passing one of them along the very long queue and it eventually came to me. I held the baby while I was trying to process her departure.”
The UK Government evacuated over 15,000 people, including around 2,200 children, from August 14 until the final British military flight departed on Saturday August 28.
Rhys, who joined the FCDO in 2018, had flown out to Kabul to join the massive evacuation effort on Sunday August 22.
He said: “We were working 16 or 17 hour days. You don’t sleep much, as you are just running on adrenaline.
“I’ve worked on a few crises before, but this was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done – but also the most worthwhile.
“I would say probably more than half the families that I saw, at least one family member had been killed, either by the Taliban or by other violence.
“The most moving moments were when you would help young girls get out because their life in Afghanistan, if they had to stay, would be extremely difficult.”
He added: “It was really full-on, but I’m proud I played a part in getting over 15,000 people out.”
Rhys had been working from the Baron Hotel, which was next to where ISIS-K suicide bombers carried out an attack that left more than 170 people, including 13 US Marines dead.
He said: “We were moved out of our location because we’d received intelligence about the
increased bomb threat and a few hours later that massive bomb did go off.
“The bomb was on the route that we had taken out so that was a bit chilling.
“It sounds cheesy but because of how good the military were we felt well protected, and while we were processing cases, we didn’t really have time to think about the fact you were in a very dangerous part of the world. I never actually felt in fear of my life.”
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