Afghan interpreter who once saved Biden in Afghanistan is now stranded there

The New York Post:

An Afghan interpreter who helped in the 2008 rescue of then-Sen. Joe Biden and two other senators from a valley in Afghanistan was among the thousands left behind as the commander-in-chief pulled US troops out of the embattled nation, leaving it in the hands of the Taliban. 

Mohammed, whose last name has not been revealed as he is still in hiding, gave a message for President Biden through the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday. 

“Hello Mr. President: Save me and my family,” he said. “Don’t forget me here.” 

The interpreter is hiding from the Taliban after attempting to escape Afghanistan for years. He and his family are among the many Afghan allies who were unable to evacuate the country by the time US troops completed their full withdrawal Monday evening.

Asked about his fate Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday that she appreciated the man’s role in helping rescue the president — and that the US will try to help him leave Afghanistan.

“Our message to him is thank you for fighting by our side for the last 20 years. Thank you for the role you played in helping a number of my favorite people out of a snowstorm and for all the work you did,” Psaki said at her daily press briefing.

She added: “Our commitment is enduring — not just to American citizens, but to our Afghan partners who have fought by our side — and our efforts and our focus right now is… to the diplomatic phase. We will get you out. We will honor your service.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, at the time an aide to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also was rescued by the mission. Blinken is now in charge of diplomatic efforts to rescue remaining Americans and at-risk Afghans.

Then-Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) also were aboard the pair of US Army Black Hawk helicopters forced to land in the mountains due to a snowstorm. 

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.

Mohammed spent much of his time in a tough valley where the soldiers said he was in more than 100 firefights with them. The soldiers trusted him so much that they would sometimes give him a weapon to use if they got in trouble when they went into tough areas, Mr. Genthe said.

“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 in June to support Mohammed’s application for a Special Immigrant Visa.

After surviving the ordeal, Hagel went on to be defense secretary from 2013-2015. Kerry was secretary of state from 2013-2017 and is currently Biden’s global warming envoy.

In 2008, Mohammed was a 36-year-old interpreter working with the US Army and joined a motorcade responding to the senators’ call for help. According to soldiers, the group braved more than 100 firefights in the valley. 

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Shawn O’Brien, an Army veteran who worked with Mohammed in 2008, has also called on US officials to help Mohammed leave the country. 

“If you can only help one Afghan, choose [Mohammed],” O’Brien said, per the Journal.

As of Tuesday, Mohammed remained in hiding, saying, “I can’t leave my house. I’m very scared.” 

Biden frequently mentioned the rescue during the 2008 presidential campaign, saying, “If you want to know where al Qaeda lives, you want to know where [Osama] bin Laden is, come back to Afghanistan with me.”

“Come back to the area where my helicopter was forced down … in the middle of those mountains. I can tell you where they are.” 

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