British and Afghan army officers reunited at Kabul airport in chance meeting

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A British Army officer and an Afghan special operations officer who trained together in the UK were reunited at Kabul airport during the evacuation of Afghanistan last month.

Captain Dave Kellett and First Lieutenant Mohammad Jawad Akbari trained together at Sandhurst in 2018 and met again by chance as 1st Lt Akbari was evacuated from Afghanistan as part of Operation Pitting, which Cpt Kellett was helping to execute.

The pair took a photograph together as 1st Lt Akbari was being processed by coalition forces.

Cpt Kellett, 25, from Bristol, told the PA news agency: “It was bizarre really. I was actually in the ops room for a lot of the operation when I was there so I popped out to see how my platoons were doing on the ground.

“As I was leaving, my sergeant major looked out into the queue and Mohammad here was in the queue going through the processing centre so I popped out of my vehicle just to go and say hello.”

Mohammed Jawad Akbari with Captain David Kellett after being reunited in Kabul (Ministry of Defence)
Mohammed Jawad Akbari with Captain David Kellett after being reunited in Kabul (Ministry of Defence)

First Lt Akbari, 30, from Kabul, told PA: “At first I didn’t really believe that (Dave) was right there, it was like ‘wow, shock, my friend is here’.

“We had a handshake and like a warm welcome to him and I appreciate this more, what (the British Army) did back in Kabul, evacuating all these people from Afghanistan from the outside, because the job was quite hard for them as it was so warm and the weather was hard to deal with all the guys having to carry heavy equipment and weapons, and they were just running around asking people what they need.”

The pair met up again in London on Monday as they were invited to meet veterans minister Leo Docherty at the Ministry of Defence, and they took photographs next to a memorial for the 457 UK troops killed in Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion.

Mr Docherty said: “We are very clear that the friendship we have with the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (Arap) new arrivals is enduring.

Taliban Resurgence in Afghanistan
First Lieutenant Mohammad Jawad Akbari and Captain Dave Kellett talk to each other by the Iraq Afghanistan Memorial at the Ministry of Defence building in Westminster (Victoria Jones/PA)

“I think that will endure because the experience that we’ve all been through in Afghanistan really was formative both for the Afghans involved and for the whole defence community.

“We are really keen to afford the same support and friendships that those who supported us when we were in (Afghanistan).”

Cpt Kellett said the diversity of Sandhurst, a royal military academy, and the different nationalities of those that train there as well as the training they were given as a group were reasons why the friendship had formed.

Taliban Resurgence in Afghanistan
First Lieutenant Mohammad Jawad Akbari, veterans minister Leo Docherty and Captain Dave Kellett by the Iraq Afghanistan Memorial (Victoria Jones/PA)

After a year of training at Sandhurst, 1st Lt Akbari went on to serve with the Afghan National Army, while Cpt Kellett went on to serve with the 2nd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment.

First Lt Akbari has now settled in London with his wife as part of the Operation Warm Welcome resettlement scheme and both men have said their contemporaries from Sandhurst were delighted when they heard of the reunion.

The friends said they hoped to stay in touch now that they are in the same country.

More than 15,000 people were airlifted out of Kabul during August as part of Operation Pitting.

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