As the Taliban takes over the nation of Afghanistan and forces American troops out of the country, Afghan civilians who provided assistance to the American military are begging for help to avoid persecution, according to ABC News.
One such example is an Afghan man by the name of Ismail, whose last name is being withheld for his own safety. Ismail served as a translator, guide, and armed guard for American, British, and Australian forces over the course of four years, based at Bagram Air Base. In 2011, Ismail applied for a special immigrant visa to move his family, including his four children, to the United States to avoid Taliban retaliation.
But Ismail’s primary sponsor, U.S. Army sergeant and defense contractor John Speikhout, committed suicide in 2016 due to the trauma from the war. As a result, Ismail’s application was denied in 2017, since immigration authorities could not verify his employment without the late Speikhout’s confirmation. Speikhout had previously described Ismail as “very intelligent, honest, and well-educated.” Speikhout’s brother, Andy Truhn, said that Speikhout even came to see Ismail as a brother of his own.
As the American-backed government in Kabul collapsed on Sunday, similar fears were felt by tens of thousands of Afghans who had aided the Western forces in a similar manner to Ismail. The panic culminated in thousands of civilians storming Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport on Monday, running out onto the tarmacs and chasing American planes as they were taking off, in a desperate attempt to flee the country one last time; five civilians were killed in the chaos.
Ryan Jackson, a U.S. defense contractor who worked with both Speikhout and Ismail, reacted to the situation with disgust, saying that “in the end, once their usefulness is concluded, so is our care for their situation. I feel like we abandoned our allies over there.”
Joe Biden has vowed to help Afghans who helped American forces. But out of 20,000 Afghans who have applied for special immigrant visas like Ismail, the current evacuation strategy only applies to one-fourth of that amount, with a focus on 5,000 Afghans who have been granted a visa by the U.S. Embassy. These consist mostly of translators, guides, and other contractors, and will be evacuated, along with their families, with the assistance of the 3,000 troops Biden ordered back into the falling country as Taliban forces drew closer to the capital city of Kabul. Currently, roughly 1,200 Afghans have already been relocated to the United States, and are currently housed at Fort Lee in central Virginia.
Taliban forces stormed the gates of Kabul on Sunday, August 15th. President Ashraf Ghani fled the country to an undisclosed location shortly thereafter, marking the end of the Afghan government as the Taliban took over the city, stormed the empty presidential palace, and declared themselves back in power once again. The Fall of Kabul marks a dramatic and disastrous end to the longest war in the history of the United States, after 20 years, over $2 trillion spent, and over 2,400 American lives lost.