An Afghan interpreter who helped save President Joe Biden and two other U.S. lawmakers in 2008 has escaped Afghanistan with the aid of volunteers working to evacuate stranded Americans and U.S. allies from the country.
Aman Khalili and his family escaped from Afghanistan over the border to Pakistan last week, Khalili told The Wall Street Journal. After hiding from the Taliban for weeks under the care of various volunteer organizations, a group of military veterans smuggled the former U.S. interpreter and his family through numerous Taliban checkpoints and out of Afghanistan.
Khalili’s story recently appeared in the news after he pled for Biden to help save him and his family. Instead, Khalili was left in Afghanistan to the mercies of the Taliban after Biden withdrew U.S. forces from the country in August, leaving behind thousands of U.S. allies, Special Immigrant Visa-holders, and American citizens.
After Khalili’s story appeared in the Journal in an August 31 story, he was flooded with offers to help from volunteer rescue workers in Afghanistan and the Biden administration. However, despite the White House’s pledge to “get you out,” as press secretary Jen Psaki said on August 31, the Biden administration was minimally involved in extracting Khalili from Afghanistan. As the Journal reported:
The main drivers of the mission to save Mr. Khalili, his wife and five children were U.S. military veterans from Arizona who worked with the interpreter on the 2008 operation to rescue the stranded senators.
Although an array of high-profile people and U.S. officials said they would try to help evacuate him, it was a group led by an Afghan-American who worked as a linguist with elite U.S. forces in Afghanistan who carried out the ground operation that got Mr. Khalili safely out of the country.
“After 144 hours of driving day and night and getting through so many checkpoints my family was so scared, but right now this is a kind of heaven,” he told the Journal. “Hell was in Afghanistan.”
Rescue workers in Afghanistan have criticized the Biden administration’s efforts in the country, from the evacuation efforts pre-withdrawal to the administration’s attempts to downplay some of the failures and consequences of pulling U.S. forces out of Afghanistan. Jean Marie Thrower, an Army veteran and volunteer with the Afghan Rescue Crew, blasted the administration in late September, accusing it of hiding the true number of American citizens left behind in Afghanistan.
“Definitely, there are more than the hundred that is being stated. We have multiple groups working together with teams with rosters of people, and we continue to scrub those rosters to make sure we know where these people are at,” Thrower said. “I do want to say as a veteran, quickly, that I’m appalled at our administration and how they have disrespected Americans and our allies, as well as put our soldiers’ future operations in jeopardy.”
In late August when the U.S. military was still using Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport to direct evacuation operations, leaders of volunteer rescue teams ripped the Biden administration for impeding evacuation efforts.
“What I am witnessing every day is the very best and the very worst of America,” Washington lobbyist Robert Stryk said. “I have seen the humanity of private citizens who are contacting me and pledging their time, monies, and in some cases their lives to bring our citizens and these Afghan patriots out of harm’s way, while at the time personally experiencing the Biden administration’s abject failure to protect its citizens and those Afghans that fought and worked alongside of us.”
“It’s morally reprehensible,” he added. “It’s been the U.S. private sector who has stepped in to save the blood and treasure the Biden administration is leaving behind.”
Former GOP Virginia Rep. Scott Taylor, a former Navy SEAL, added that the Biden administration was causing a “massive f***-up” in Afghanistan.
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