An Afghan interpreter who helped rescue President Joe Biden 13 years ago implored the commander in chief to evacuate him and his family from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, according to The Wall Street Journal.
“Hello Mr. President: Save me and my family,” Mohammed, who chose not to use his full name for his safety, told the newspaper as U.S. troops completed evacuations Monday. “Don’t forget me here.”
The interpreter is among countless Afghan allies left behind after the U.S. troops’ full withdrawal. He is currently in hiding with his wife and four children, the Journal reported.
Mohammed, according to the Journal, was part of a team that helped rescue then-Senator Biden and former Sens. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., and John Kerry, D-Mass., in 2008 when their helicopters were forced to land in a snowstorm, stranding them in a remote valley in Afghanistan. He was an interpreter for the U.S. Army, according to Army veterans who worked with him at the time.
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White House press secretary Jen Psaki responded to Mohammed’s plea for help Tuesday, saying the U.S. is committed to extracting him and his family from the country.
“We will get you out, we will honor your service, and we’re committed to doing exactly that,” Psaki said.
Afghan allies who aided U.S. forces during the 20-year war in Afghanistan face retribution from the Taliban, the fundamentalist group that staged a swift takeover once troops began withdrawing from the country. But Mohammed and others like him have been hampered by the special immigrant visa process that would ensure entry into the United States.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price said last week the special immigrant visa system has chronic staffing shortages, lacks a coordinating official and has a bureaucratic 14-step process enshrined in statute — all leftovers from the Trump administration.
Price said the Biden administration added resources and implemented enough changes to reduce average processing time by more than a year. The number of visas issued rose from 100 in March to 813 per week recently, he said.
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But Mohammed’s visa application was delayed after the defense contractor he worked for lost the records required for his application, the Journal reported. He tried going to the designated airport gates at Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport and was told they could get him in, but not his family.
Now, the only option left for the interpreter who stood guard with Afghan soldiers and U.S. troops for 30 hours in freezing temperatures to protect three of the country’s leaders is to wait.
“I can’t leave my house,” he said Tuesday, according to the Journal. “I’m very scared.”
Contributing: Maureen Groppe
Follow Chelsey Cox on Twitter at @therealco.