Afghan translator stuck in Mazar-e-Sharif anticipates his own beheading by Taliban

AP Photo/Gulabuddin Amiri

An Afghan translator hiding himself and his family in Mazar-e-Sharif until they can be evacuated is losing hope and fearing his own beheading at the hands of the Taliban. He acted as a military translator for the U.S. for 15 years but he has been left behind. He and his family are sheltering at a hotel. He knows what will happen to Afghans who helped the United States once the Taliban stops pretending to be on their best behavior.

Efforts are ongoing to get them out of Mazar-e-Sharif and to safety, including by Thomas McGrath, a retired Army colonel and one of the veterans working to help the former interpreter. The translator, his name withheld for safety purposes, is hiding with his wife and their eight children. There are hundreds of vulnerable Afghans left behind, as well as dozens of American citizens and green card holders and their families in Mazar-e-Sharif. They are all waiting for permission to leave on chartered planes out of Afghanistan. Taliban leaders say they will allow those with the proper paperwork to leave. They are going through the manifests and passenger documents, or so they say.

“We think we are in some kind of jail,” said one Afghan woman among the would-be evacuees gathered at one large hotel in Mazar-e-Sharif.

She described the Americans and green-card holders in their group as elderly parents of Afghan-American citizens in the United States.

The Afghan woman contacted at the hotel — an employee of a U.S.-based nonprofit, Ascend, that works with Afghan women and girls — also spoke Tuesday on condition of anonymity for her security. She said those in her group have proper passports and visas, but the Taliban are blocking them from entering the airport.

Like the interpreter, she said she has been waiting for eight days.

At one point last week, alarm spread through the women’s side of her hotel in the city when warnings came that the Taliban were searching the would-be evacuees on the men’s side, and had taken some away.

“I am scared if they split us and not let us leave,” she said. “If we can’t get out of here, something wrong will happen. And I am afraid of that.”

We know that Secretary of State Tony Blinken claims ignorance of any people being essentially held as hostages, denied departure out of Mazar-e-Sharif. The translator and the woman put human stories behind Blinken’s denials. Their plights are the direct result of the botched withdrawal from Afghanistan. Blinken and Biden and everyone else in the administration may try to gaslight Americans that everything is going well and the Taliban are legitimate partners but that is simply a lie. Blinken safely spoke from Doha as he said the problem was that the evacuees don’t have the proper paperwork and that is slowing down the process. If the Biden administration planned for every contingency, as they claim, shouldn’t they have been prepared for people trying to leave the country with paperwork that wasn’t complete, or whatever the problem is? They are trying to leave a country that is mostly living in the 6th century, after all. How could they be expected to have everything ready to go on the short notice they received to get out of the country? The Biden administration should have begun evacuating them months ago instead of trying to do it in a matter of days in Kabul.

Blinken, in Doha, said the Taliban had told U.S. officials that the problem in Mazar-e-Sharif was that passengers with valid travel documents were mixed in with those without the right travel papers.

Blinken is taking the word of the Taliban over American citizens and Afghan helpers. Let that sink in. How naive is this administration? Worse yet, it is likely not so much naivety as it is apathy toward the disaster on the ground. They don’t care if hundreds are left behind, including American citizens. It used to be that America prided itself on no Americans left behind. Now the Biden Doctrine seems to be 90% is sufficient. It’s unacceptable. What country will ever trust the word of the United States again? Certainly not in the near future. Biden is a callous and arrogant career politician. He is not up to the job.

“They’ll probably kill him,” McGrath agreed, expressing fear for the man’s children as well.

The interpreter had always told his American comrades that he believed his work with them was in service of his own country, the retired colonel said. “He put a lot on the line by lining up with us,” McGrath said.

An array of Americans — many of them with some past experience in Afghanistan, or other ties — have been working for weeks to try to help evacuate at-risk Afghans. Much of that effort is focused now on the planes in Mazar-e-Sharif.

Some of those Americans pushing for U.S. action said Tuesday they fear the Biden administration will help out American citizens and leave behind green card holders, Afghans who used to work with Americans, and others whose work has left them vulnerable, including journalists, women’s advocates and rights workers.

“The game changed partway through,” said Marina LeGree, the American head of Ascend.

There is bipartisan outrage over the incompetence of the Biden administration. A group of 12 liberal Democrats wrote to Biden yesterday on behalf of those left behind.

Later Tuesday, 12 Democratic lawmakers added to the pressure for evacuees, in a letter urging the administration to disclose its plans for getting out all of the hundreds of at-risk people remaining in Afghanistan, and not just American citizens.

“Our staff have been working around the clock responding to urgent pleas from constituents whose families and colleagues are seeking to flee Afghanistan, and they urgently require timely, post-withdrawal guidance to best assist those in need,” Representatives Jerrold Nadler, Zoe Lofgren, Gerald Connolly and nine other lawmakers from President Joe Biden’s party wrote.

There is a report this morning from a veteran combat correspondent that the State Department is calling Americans in Mazar-e-Sharif and telling them to drive back to Kabul. He says this will get people killed. It does sound crazy, if true. It is the kind of dangerous incompetence we’ve come to expect from the Biden administration, though.