“Don’t forget me here” — for Mohammed, an Afghan interpreter who helped rescue Joe Biden 13 years ago in Afghanistan, imploring the US President for help seemed like the only option as American troops left behind countless Afghan allies like him after their complete withdrawal from the war-torn nation.
“Hello Mr. President: Save me and my family,” Mohammed, who chose not to use his full name for his safety, told the Wall Street Journal, adding: “Don’t forget me here.”
Mohammed, in hiding with his wife and four children, 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 US Army, according to Army veterans who worked with him at the time.
Mohammed’s appeal seemed to have reached the ears of the President as White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the US is committed to extracting him and his family from the country.
“We will get you out, we will honour your service, and we’re committed to doing exactly that,” Psaki said.
Like Mohammed, several Afghan allies who helped US forces during the 20-year war in Afghanistan are living in fear of retribution from the Taliban that have taken over the country.
Among other barriers, 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.
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 US 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.”