Miles Routledge, who claims to be a 21-year-old Loughborough University student studying physics and finance, says he went to Afghanistan on holiday—but didn't expect to be there during the Taliban's takeover of the government.
"Decided to pop down to Afghanistan for a few days, never been before," he wrote in a 4chan thread on Friday. "Just goofing off and soaking in the sun. Seems more peaceful than London to me. AMA"
As of yesterday, Routledge claims to still be there—Sunday night, he did a Twitch livestream in which he talks about wearing a cross and that it's "God's plan" if he's killed by the Taliban. In another, he claims to have shaken hands with the Taliban. He's also claimed that he bought a lordship certificate that he hoped would trick the Taliban into not killing him. Since then, he’s become known online as “Lord Miles.”
Screenshot via 4chan
Routledge’s trip went megaviral on Sunday, and, of course, many are questioning the veracity of his story, leading him to upload photos of his flight reservations, credit cards, and showing his visa on stream as proof. He has also posted photos of himself posing with Arabic signs in the background. Aric Toler of the open source research firm Bellingcat told me that at least one of the photos circulating of Routledge, of him on a vehicle posing next to a gun, is from the tomb of Afghan resistance fighter against the Taliban Ahmad Shah Massoud, which is a tourist destination 80 miles from Kabul. The gift shop is visible in the background. He's wearing the same outfit in another photo he posted to 4chan saying he was in a Kabul marketplace.
"Check out the entire [4chan] thread. I've posted pictures of everything. There's undeniable proof I'm in Afghanistan," Routledge said on the Twitch livestream. "You want to see my visa?" Routledge then pulls out what looks to be a passport and an Afghani visa that appears to be valid from August 12 through November 12.
Thousands of people are currently attempting to flee Kabul, Afghanistan's capital, after the Taliban took over the country on Sunday, after a months-long offensive attempt to seize power following the withdrawal of US troops from the region. Several people have died at the Kabul airport as they tried to board flights. U.S. embassy staff have been evacuated, as have thousands of British citizens and eligible Afghans, but British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has said that "some people won’t get back” from Afghanistan.
Routledge, meanwhile, tried to leverage a trip to occupied Afghanistan for attention and seemingly got much more than he bargained for as the Taliban took full control of the country.
Screenshot via 4chan
A photo of a flight receipt he posted to 4chan shows Routledge’s arrival into Kabul early on Friday, August 13. He claims that he'd been inspired to go to Afghanistan after searching for the top 10 most dangerous countries in the world, and then "use it like a shopping list." His return flight is scheduled for Thursday, August 19, and is still active, although it very likely won't happen.
"Went Ukraine during the war and went Chernobyl," he wrote on 4chan. "Was going to go North Korea after a wealth management internship in Shanghai but covid happened so that became remote. Visas for some other countries are too expensive, therefore I settled on Afghanistan. Started googling and found out it’s actually quite beautiful, foods great and It’s obviously dirt cheap." He's been planning this trip since May, according to his Facebook posts.
According to UK news outlet the Independent, he posted a Facebook update around noon local time on Monday claiming that he'd been given body armor to attempt to flee the country, and asked followers to pray. That post has since been deleted.
In the Twitch stream Routledge described being protected by the NATO UN forces, and answered questions from the stream's chat. "Maybe I'll be evacuated tonight, maybe next week, maybe a month," he said. "But either way, I've got food, I've got my phone, I've got a changer, I've got the Lord, I've got this, I'm gucci, I don't care." He also claims to have been homeless on the streets in Birmingham, which was "worse than Afghanistan." Someone asks if he's right-wing, and he wiggles his eyebrows and says "what do you think?" and that he's "more specialized" than that.
Most of his missives on 4chan and Facebook have downplayed the seriousness of the situation and have of course not grappled with the horrifying situation on the ground for millions of Afghanis.
In a post on Sunday, he uploaded a photo of himself giving a thumbs-up to the camera, wearing a scarf around his head. "Found the hidden international resistance place, it has mostly Turkish but they’ve invited me in and found the British," he wrote. "Let’s see what’ll happen from here. Got a badge, British lads, I’m basically hidden away and should be good. All part of the plan totally totally totally. In temporary housing, still better than my uni accommodation haha. I will livestream soon but I just need to get into western clothes and drink some water. It’s all good in da hood ayyyy"
Routledge did not immediately respond to a request for comment.