KABUL, Afghanistan — As thousands of Afghans and their families who assisted U.S. troops wait to be evacuated from their country, one of those men is speaking with EastIdahoNews.com from his home in Kabul.
He worked as an interpreter for the U.S. military for over a decade, is married with two children and is scared for his life. For his safety, EastIdahoNews.com is not using the man’s name but will refer to him as Abdul.
“I’m scared of the Taliban. If they know that I am an interpreter, they will kill me right now or later,” Abdul said during a phone interview. “I’m really in danger, and I’m thinking about my family. The Taliban – they claim that they’re searching houses and looking for government workers – especially interpreters. As they get them, they will kill them or torture them.”
Abdul was born and raised in Afghanistan. He began interpreting with the goal of moving to the United States. He applied for the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program, designed to reward Afghan interpreters. Multiple letters of recommendation were written on his behalf from high-ranking military officials as early as 2008. Abdul waited for years but never heard anything.
Aid groups estimate 80,000 Afghans have requested SIV applications, according to The Washington Post, and applicants can “reasonably expect” to wait four years for a visa.
“When I succeeded in (my) exam, I was so happy. I started working so one day I would be in America,” Abdul said. “But in this situation, I’m still here. Everyone is asking me, ‘You’ve worked for the USA for several years. You’re still here. Your friends – they’re in America. Why?’ I said, ‘I don’t know. I’m so pissed off. I’m so worried.'”
Military members from Idaho who used Abdul as their interpreter in Afghanistan tell EastIdahoNews.com they’ve contacted U.S. Congressman Mike Simpson and U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo, both R-Idaho, for help. They’re also reached out to U.S. Congressman Chris Stewart, R-Utah, desperate to get their friend out of harm’s way.
Abdul was at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on Monday and observed the chaotic scene. Afghans clung to a U.S. military aircraft as it taxied and took off. Some plunged to their deaths, and at least seven people were killed.
There was a constant barrage of gunfire and Adbul witnessed a man being rushed to the hospital in a police truck after being shot.
WARNING: This video shows a man who was injured after being shot.
“I saw a crowd of people. They tried to get inside of the airport and the Taliban – they tried to stop them and they’re firing to go away,” Abdul recalled. “In front of the gate, there were a lot of kids, so I couldn’t get inside. (I went home) and when I am inside of my house, when I heard somebody knocking. For a second I thought it was the Taliban. (I thought) they’re coming for me and they’re getting me out of the house.”
Abdul has said very little to his 7-year-old daughter and 5-year-son about the events that have unfolded over the past few days. He does not want to scare them, so his family avoids talking about the Taliban.
The Pentagon said Monday it had prepared to bring 22,000 SIV recipients to the United States, where they will be temporarily housed on military bases. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the military hopes to evacuate up to 5,000 people per day, with a deadline of withdrawing all U.S. troops by Aug. 31.
Abdul feels the United States has betrayed and forgotten him and others who have helped military operations since 2001.
“I’m saying America did not fulfill its promise. I’m saying that. They promised and (said) they will keep their promise, but they didn’t. You see, I am still here and the savage Taliban – today, tomorrow, one day … if I stay here, they will kill me,” he said. “They can knock on my door and get inside my house. They could capture me and torture me and kill me in front of my kids, my wife, my brothers, my sisters.”
Despite the terror, Abdul remains hopeful that he and his family will be able to leave Afghanistan soon and begin a new life. He says Americans “are good people,” but after what he has witnessed, he does not trust politicians.
“When you promise something to anyone, try to keep that promise and try to do something for them. You promised me, you were for me, I saved your ass. But I am still here,” he said.