Ljubljana – After NATO troops left Afghanistan, several people who had cooperated with the Slovenian army there turned to Slovenia for help as they now fear Taliban retaliation, the newspaper Dnevnik reported on Friday. The Defence Ministry is reportedly looking for ways to grant them asylum.
The ministry has confirmed for Dnevnik that some individuals had turned to the ministry or the Slovenian army with requests for help and that options for granting them asylum are being examined.
According to the paper, Slovenia is in talks with other EU countries that have participated in military missions in Afghanistan on ways to protect civilians there.
“Slovenia joins the efforts of the international community to help all those who directly supported the functioning of contingents in Afghanistan,” the ministry said.
The people who asked for help are mainly interpreters but also security personnel and other supporting staff who worked with foreign soldiers, including Slovenian, and are now in danger because of this.
The ministry did not give the exact number of civilians who have worked with the Slovenian army in recent years or the degree of danger they might be in. It only said that it continued to monitor the situation in Afghanistan, also in light of such issues.
The ministry told the STA that the Slovenian army had cooperated with several individuals in the 17 years of its presence in the country and that they were mostly interpreters and technical support personnel. Their number is similar to the size of the contingents of the Slovenian army and is not big, it added.
Under the current rules, foreigners can only ask for asylum when they are in the country. However, it is also possible to obtain a temporary permit for entering the country beforehand or for temporary stay in the country.
Following the government’s decision to withdraw Slovenia’s troops deployed in the NATO-led Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan, the last six Slovenian soldiers returned home from Afghanistan on 20 May.
Their mission in Afghanistan included similar tasks as those performed by previous Slovenian troops there – efforts to train Afghan soldiers and integrate women into the military.
Slovenia has taken part in various NATO missions in Afghanistan since 2004, when it entered the alliance, and almost 1,400 Slovenian soldiers have been rotated so far.
The country had the greatest presence in Afghanistan in 2011 – a total of 179 soldiers in two rotations. The Slovenian Armed Forces is one of the few NATO armies not to have suffered any casualties in Afghanistan.