WASHINGTON: An interpreter who helped rescue US President Joe Biden in a 2008 Afghan snowstorm has escaped Afghanistan with his family after hiding from the Taliban for weeks, the State Department confirmed Monday.
After crossing into Pakistan over land, Aman Khalili and his family flew on a US government aircraft to Doha, Qatar, where thousands of refugees from Afghanistan are being processed by US officials for immigration, a State Department spokesperson told AFP.
The Wall Street Journal reported earlier that Khalili, his wife and five children, who were unable to flee in the August emergency airlift following the takeover by the Taliban, escaped the country with the help of Afghan-American and veterans groups.
In 2008, Khalili was working as an interpreter for US forces when then senator Biden and two other lawmakers, Chuck Hagel and John Kerry, visited Afghanistan.
When a snowstorm forced their helicopter to land in a remote area, Khalili joined a small military Quick Reaction Force which drove from Bagram airbase into the mountains to rescue them.
Thirteen years later, Khalili was unable to get his application to emigrate to the United States processed in time to be evacuated as the Taliban seized power.
“Hello Mr. President: Save me and my family,” he was quoted as saying in the Wall Street Journal at the very end of August, when the airlift of some 120,000 people escaping the country ended.
In response, White House press Secretary Jen Psaki said the government will help him.
“We will get you out. We will honor your service,” she said.
After the airlift ended, Khalili and his family hid in a safe house in Kabul, with the help of Afghan Americans and US veterans.
Unable to board a refugee flight from Mazar-i-Sharif, in part because they lacked Afghan passports, Khalili and his family traveled overland surreptitiously for two days to the Pakistan border, which they crossed on October 5.
The Journal reported that the State Department is fast-tracking a plan to provide the family with special immigration visas for the United States