THE veterans minister has pledged to do everything he can to help former Afghan special forces resettle in the UK, amid concerns they face death at the hands of the Taliban.

Johnny Mercer said the “vast majority” of the two special forces units, known as the Triples, are likely to meet the criteria for the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (Arap).

He added if they are eligible and “deserve to be in the United Kingdom” then he will do “everything I can to get them here” after previously noting the Government has a “duty” to those individuals.

MPs warned that the elite veterans, who fought alongside UK forces, are threatened with deportation back to their Taliban-controlled home country from Pakistan.

On Monday, armed forces minister and MP for Somerset's Wells constituency, James Heappey, said the CF333 and ATF444 taskforces – set up to counter drug trafficking and organised crime – were Afghan-led and reported into the Afghan Ministry of Interior Affairs.

He said they were not automatically in scope for relocation under Arap and “certain members” of the Triples “will not be eligible for relocation”, adding each application was assessed on a case-by-case basis.

On Wednesday, Mr Mercer said Mr Heappey was correct to say being in a taskforce “does not automatically entitle you” to be in the UK as there may be “very well-founded reasons as to why that individual does then not settle into accommodation in the UK through many different national security reasons”.

Mr Mercer told the House of Commons: “I also am clear where that criteria on the Arap entitlement sits, I’m clear that the vast majority of these (CF333 and ATF444) operators should fit within that criteria.

“And if they meet that criteria and they deserve to be in the United Kingdom then I will do everything I can to get them here.

“This is a Government effort, it’s not a single-led issue, this is a cross-Government issue between Home Office, DLUHC (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities), defence, I’ve been asked to oversee it by the Prime Minister and that’s what I’m doing.”

Labour’s Dan Jarvis, an army veteran who also served in Afghanistan, earlier told Mr Mercer: “The minister will know very well, as do I, that the Triples were recruited by the UK, they were led by the UK, they were paid by the UK.

“By design they served shoulder-to-shoulder alongside us. So we owe them a debt of gratitude and this is a matter of honour.

“So I wonder if the minister shares my concern that based on what the minister for the armed forces said on Monday, the Arap criteria doesn’t guarantee qualification for the Triples?

“He’ll share my concern, I know, that many have already been rejected, some undoubtedly already are dead.

“What more can be done to support the Triples?”

Mr Mercer replied: “I know that he commanded one of these units in a similar time to when I was in Afghanistan. He has a deep, intimate knowledge of how these were set up, paid for and funded.”

He added “we have a duty to these individuals”, before saying: “Whilst technically the minister for the armed forces was right in that they were led and had direct command chains into the Afghan government, there is going to be no attempt whatsoever from this Government to close down avenues for those who served (CF333 and ATF444) who I know he personally trained and fought alongside.

“Whilst I recognise the concern, he will know that I will not oversee a scheme that does not oversee its duty to those – particularly those in the (CF333 and ATF444) taskforces – who he and I served alongside in Afghanistan.”

Elsewhere, the Ministry of Defence was fined £350,000 for an “egregious” data breach that exposed the personal information of Afghan nationals seeking to flee to the UK after the Taliban takeover.

Details belonging to 265 people were mistakenly copied in to emails sent by the Government, meaning they could be seen by all recipients, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) found.

This could have led to a “threat to life” if the data disclosed fell into the hands of the Taliban, the data watchdog said.

In response to one email, two people “replied all” with one providing their location to the entire distribution list, which was made up of Afghan citizens eligible for evacuation, according to the ICO.

Under data protection law, organisations should have measures in place to avoid disclosing personal information, and the watchdog advises the use of bulk email services or mail merge to protect details sent electronically.

An MoD spokesperson said: “We fully acknowledge today’s ruling and apologise to those affected.

“We have introduced a number of measures to act on the ICO’s recommendations and will share further details on these measures in due course.”

By Richard Wheeler and Nina Lloyd, PA.