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Who is Aman Khalili? Meet the Afghan translator who saved Joe Biden

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The translator who saved the then-Senator from the Taliban in 2008 flees to Pakistan, where the State Department intervened to get him to the United States.

Thousands of US allies are still stuck in Afghanistan, with limited route out, more than a month after Kabul’s surrender. A few have subsequently escaped, and their stories have made international headlines as examples of how the West has failed to deliver on its promises. Aman Khalili, an Afghan translator who memorably saved then-Senator Joe Biden in 2008, is the latest to flee.

According to accounts, Khalili fled Afghanistan by land via Pakistan before being apprehended by the US State Department. The path taken by Texas mom Mariam and her three children to flee Afghanistan is a carefully guarded secret, so it’s unclear if this was the same route. Mariam and Khalili are just two of the thousands of Afghan friends who have managed to flee the country; many more remain in the country and are being pursued by the Taliban.

The facts of Khalili’s terrible trip and difficult escape have now been made public. It also illustrates the United States’ incapacity to actively assist Afghan allies fleeing the country. Khalili traveled from Afghanistan to Pakistan on his own, with the assistance of previous vets and civilians. The US State Department became involved only after he had successfully crossed the border.

Aman Khalili, who is he?

Senators Joe Biden, John Kerry, and Chuck Hagel were visiting Afghanistan in 2008 when their chopper was forced to make an emergency landing due to a blizzard. The trio was forced to land in a remote part of Afghanistan, where they were left trapped for hours until a rescue could be arranged. Aman Khalili, who worked as an interpreter for the US Army, was a part of the rescue attempt.

Khalili and his family were granted Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) to the United States as a consequence of their loyalty and assistance. Those SIVs, however, were useless because the family was left stuck in the nation during the tumultuous last days of the US occupation. He allegedly attempted to flee the country through Mazar-i-Sharif, but was unsuccessful. Khalili appealed with Biden for assistance on August 31, as the final US jets left Kabul. He appealed with the Wall Street Journal to “save me and my family.”

Those cries seemed to fall on deaf ears at the time, but that wasn’t fully true. The Human First Coalition appears to have been involved by the US government (HFC).

 

According to reports, the HFC collaborated with an unidentified Afghan businessman and the Pakistani Intelligence Service (ISI) to remove Khalili from Afghanistan. His wife and five children didn’t have passports, which made things much more difficult. Mercury One first rescued him and placed him in a safe home in Mazar-y-sharif. However, following a succession of false starts from the group, he was left on edge.

He was eventually connected to HFC and transported to Helmand Province, which is on Pakistan’s southern border. The family had to pass through 12 checkpoints on one leg, according to Safi Rauf, who assisted in the evacuation of the family. He made it over in the end and was treated like a VIP. “This family possessed far fewer paperwork than the other 200 persons in Islamabad… I assume the State Department is just interested in the publicity and not in saving human lives “Rauf slammed the door.

According to reports, the government dispatched a C-17 to take up Khalili and his family in Islamabad and transport them to Doha. He should be eligible to go to the United States in three weeks, according to the State Department. Surprisingly, the family is among the few who have been rescued and relocated. Around 200 other people who made it to Pakistan with Khalili are still in the country. The White House has also personally contacted the family, promising to speed up their paperwork.

So, where does Khalili go from here? Khalili wants to “come to Arizona,” according to Brian Genth, an Afghan combat veteran who was part of the rescue effort. It’s unknown what Khalili intends to do once he arrives in the United States, but for the time being, he may prepare for his own and his family’s futures without fear of the Taliban.

Written by Giorgia Stromeo

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