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Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Afghan interpreter who ‘rescued Biden’ flees Afghanistan onboard flight to Qatar


An Afghan interpreter who helped rescue then-Senator Joe Biden in 2008 fled Afghanistan with his family on Monday after a personal plea for help. 

An Afghan interpreter who helped rescue the current US president when he was a senator back in 2008 has been evacuated with his family onboard a flight to Doha after months of pleas to the US government fell on deaf ears. 

Mohammad Aman Khalili, along with his wife and children, arrived in Qatar on a US military flight from Pakistan earlier this week after failing to evacuate from Kabul in the first round of evacuations.

According to the Wall Street Journal, US troops at Hamid Karzai International Airport refused to allow the family into the facility due to a lack of documents. 

He then applied for a Special Immigrant Visa and was made to await approval. However, this was delayed due to a loss of records from the defence contractor that had employed him. 

The family was then forced to cross the border into Pakistan where Khalili intensified calls to the Biden administration to save his family before finally being heard.

Rescuing Biden

Nearly 13 years ago, Biden and two other US senators found themselves stranded in an Afghan valley vulnerable to Taliban attacks after a snowstorm led to a forced landing of their Blackhawk helicopters.

Khalili, who was a 36-year-old interpreter working for the US army in Afghanistan at the time was among a team that helped extract Biden, John Kerry and Chuck Hagel from the risky area.

“Hello Mr. President: Save me and my family,” he told WSJ. “Don’t forget me here,” he wrote in a message to Biden. 

Read also: Afghan boy saved from Kabul explosion reunited with father in Toronto after weeks alone in Qatar

According to the Military Times, it took nearly five days to transfer Khalili and his family from western Afghanistan where they were hiding to a military flight out of Islamabad, Pakistan.

“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,” Khalili told the WSJ. “Hell was in Afghanistan.”

In a previous statement, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the US was “committed” to evacuating allies and thanked Khalili for “helping a number of my favourite people out of a snowstorm and for all the work you did.”

The Human First Coalition- an organisation facilitating the rescue of more than 200 Afghans in Pakistan, told the BBC they were “deeply grateful” to US and Pakistani authorities for aiding “in our efforts to bring President Biden’s interpreter and his family to safety.”

The SIV was initially launched for Afghans and Iraqis who worked with American troops in wars in both countries. However, according to the BBC, it is still unclear if Khalili has obtained the visa.

Qatar has evacuated and is temporarily housing thousands of Afghans and foreign nationals being flown out of Afghanistan in the aftermath of the Taliban takeover. The Gulf state has provided accommodation and support to a range of people in transit, including students, families and journalists.

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