‘Don’t forget me here’ says Afghan interpreter who once helped Biden after an emergency helicopter landing in Afghanistan
An Afghan interpreter who was involved in a 2008 rescue effort after a helicopter carrying then-Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) and two other lawmakers made an emergency landing amid a snowstorm is now stranded in Afghanistan following the U.S. pullout, according to the Wall Street Journal.
“Hello Mr. President: Save me and my family,” Mohammed, who requested not to use his full name while in hiding, told the outlet on Monday. “Don’t forget me here.”
The man, his wife, and his children are currently hiding from the Taliban, according to the outlet. They are some of the Afghan allies still stuck in Afghanistan after the U.S. completed its withdrawal from that country on Monday. Some U.S. citizens are also stranded in Afghanistan.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked on Tuesday about her response to this man and about why he and other Afghan allies remain in Afghanistan if President Biden believes, as he said on Tuesday, that the mass evacuation was an “extraordinary success.”
During her response Psaki said that “our efforts and our focus right now … is to the diplomatic phase. We will get you out. We will honor your service.”
Here is more from the Journal’s report:
Mohammed was a 36-year-old interpreter for the U.S. Army in 2008 when two U.S. Army Black Hawk helicopters made an emergency landing in Afghanistan during a blinding snowstorm, according to Army veterans who worked with him at the time. On board were three U.S. senators: Mr. Biden, the Delaware Democrat, John Kerry, (D., Mass.) and Chuck Hagel, (R., Neb.).
As a private security team with the former firm Blackwater and U.S. Army soldiers monitored for any nearby Taliban fighters, the crew sent out an urgent call for help. At Bagram Air Field, Mohammed jumped in a Humvee with a Quick Reaction Force from the Arizona National Guard working with the 82nd Airborne Division and drove hours into the nearby mountains to rescue them, said Brian Genthe, then serving as a staff sergeant in the Arizona National Guard who brought Mohammed along on the rescue mission.
The outlet noted that “Mohammed joined the Army Humvees and three Blackwater SUVs as they barreled through thick snow to find the helicopters.” The lawmakers were transported back to the American base, according to Matthew Springmeyer, who was heading the Blackwater security in the choppers that day, according to the outlet.
Mohammed kept guard with Afghan soldiers on one side of the aircraft as members of the 82nd Airborne guarded the other side, Genthe noted, according to the outlet. Mohammed remained for 30 hours until the American military could get the choppers airborne again and the troops back to Bagram.
The man was so highly trusted that troops would sometimes provide him with a weapon to utilize if they encountered trouble when they ventured into tough places, Genthe said, according to the outlet.
“His selfless service to our military men and women is just the kind of service I wish more Americans displayed,” Lt. Col. Andrew R. Till wrote earlier this year in order in support of Mohammed’s application for a Special Immigrant Visa, according to the Journal.
The outlet reported: “Mohammed’s visa application became stuck after the defense contractor he worked for lost the records he needed for his application, Mr. Genthe said. Then the Taliban seized Kabul on Aug. 15. Like thousands of others, Mohammed said he tried his luck by going to the Kabul airport gates, where he was rebuffed by U.S. forces. Mohammed could get in, they told him, but not his wife or their children.”
“I can’t leave my house,” Mohammad said on Tuesday. “I’m very scared.”
President Biden has been facing criticism for abandoning Afghan allies and U.S. citizens who are still in Afghanistan following the U.S. pullout.
In a statement on Monday he said that he “asked the Secretary of State to lead the continued coordination with our international partners to ensure safe passage for any Americans, Afghan partners, and foreign nationals who want to leave Afghanistan.”
“The bottom line: 90% of Americans in Afghanistan who wanted to leave were able to leave,” he said during a speech on Tuesday. “And for those remaining Americans, there is no deadline. We remain committed to getting them out if they want to come out.”