Afghan Interpreters for US Forces Face Grave Threats Despite Taliban’s Amnesty Promise
09:44 GMT 11.12.2021 (Updated: 13:42 GMT 11.12.2021)
MOSCOW (Sputnik), Tommy Yang - A former Afghan interpreter for US Forces, who also worked closely with the Afghan Air Force, shared with Sputnik the details of the life-threatening dangers he experienced in recent months, despite promises of amnesty for people like him from the Taliban*.
After learning to speak English fluently on his own by watching Hollywood movies and English language news channels, Faridon, who only wanted to be identified by his first name, became an interpreter for the US forces in Afghanistan in 2018.
His job was to help American military supervisors train pilots and technicians in the Afghan Air Force, who would carry out the bombing campaigns against the Taliban. When General Austin "Scott" Miller, the top commander of the American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, visited the Afghan Air Force and held a meeting with commander Fahim Ramin, Faridon was among the group of interpreters present at the meeting.
"I was in that meeting between ‘Scott’ Miller and him [Commander Ramin]. They took pictures and videos from that meeting. The Taliban may not know my name, but they must have seen my face many times. That’s why it’s too dangerous for me now," Faridon, 28, said.
When the Taliban took over Kabul in mid-August, Faridon burned all his personal documents that could link him with this previous job of working for the US forces and went into hiding.
Despite the Taliban vowing to offer amnesty for those who worked for the US forces and would not go after them, Faridon knew that those were empty promises.
"It’s just an announcement of general amnesty for those who worked for the [former Afghan] government and those who worked for the coalition forces like me. It’s just a promise. But on the other hand, they’re still raiding people’s homes and killing Afghan nationals who did such work every day," he said.
Faridon’s worries were not unfounded. They proved to be true shortly afterwards. A group of Taliban soldiers stormed into his home, where his parents still lived, on 9 October and demanded the family to hand over the "infidel" who worked for the Americans.
Fortunately, Faridon had moved to a safe location in another part of Kabul at the end of August. As a result, his father told the Taliban soldiers that his son had already left the country during the evacuation campaign in August. His father vowed that Faridon had never worked for the Americans and was only able to leave the country by luck.
9 December 2021, 12:51 GMT
The Taliban came to his home again on 13 October and went away empty-handed. To Faridon’s surprise, he later found out that the reason the Taliban raided his home was not that they saw pictures or videos of him working for the US forces. It was because his aunt, who is a cousin of his mother, reported him to the Taliban.
"She told my mother:’ Soon, your son will die. I know where he is.’ She actually doesn’t know where I am right now. My mother told her that they can’t catch him, because he’s in the US," he said.
Faridon explained that his aunt was a very religious person and it was possible that she decided to betray his family because she truly believed he was an "infidel."
"You might have heard. In Afghanistan, whoever worked for the US forces or coalition forces are ‘infidels.’ They should be beheaded. And whoever kills those "infidels" will enjoy the highest rank in paradise. So people are doing that stuff [betraying families] for the paradise. My aunt is a very religious person and a big supporter of the Taliban," he said.
Faridon added that his aunt could also be jealous of him because he made a good salary by working for the US forces.
"In Afghan society, cousins are literally like enemies. For example, if my cousin is richer than me, I want him to be poorer than me. It’s just jealousy. I worked for the Americans and made a good salary. Her sons were jobless or earned very little as drivers. She became very jealous," Faridon said.
Lost Sole Breadwinner
Nevertheless, the two raids carried out by the Taliban showed Faridon how dangerous it could be for him. That’s why he has never visited his family in recent months and didn’t even dare to call his family members over a regular phone line.
"I keep in touch with them through Signal [the instant messaging app]. Calling them over the phone is not safe. Their phones might be wiretapped," Faridon said.
During a conversation with one of his brothers, Faridon learned that a neighbour had actually been living with his family for a while to monitor the situation and report to the Taliban if he returns home.
Being forced into hiding also meant Faridon, who is the oldest son and the sole breadwinner for his family, could no longer work. His three younger brothers and one younger sister had to rely on his father’s meagre income of $5 a day as a taxi driver.
2 December 2021, 16:39 GMT
As a result, one of his younger brothers and his younger sister both had to drop out of their universities because the family could no longer afford to pay for their tuition.
As for Faridon, he was only surviving on the $1200 he saved from his work for the US forces.
"I withdrew all my savings, about $1200, on August 31. I’m spending it right now. I’m living in a remote area of Kabul, where I don’t even have electricity. I use solar power to charge my phone," he said.
What makes the situation more difficult is the fact that Faridon got married on 29 July. He could only spend a few weeks living with his wife before he had to go into hiding. As Faridon had to live in such terrible conditions, his wife was staying with his parents. That means the newly-wed couple hasn’t had a chance to meet for months.
Ticking Time Bomb
Without any chance to find a new job because of the threats he faces, Faridon could only put all his hope on the US government’s pledge to evacuate allies who offered assistance.
"I’m living in fear. I’m waiting to be evacuated. But the US government is doing nothing for me. I’m running out of money and resources. Every minute is like a ticking bomb for me," he said.
Faridon stressed that the kind of danger he faced was truly life-threatening because the Taliban don’t usually arrest the "infidels" and let them go through trials. Many "infidels" would be killed on the spot.
One of his friends used to work for the Afghan intelligence service. An associate of this friend was killed last week during a raid in Mazar-i-Sharif.
Moving to a neighbouring country such as Pakistan could also be an option for Afghans like Faridon who faces such threats from the Taliban. But when Faridon reached the border with Pakistan in recent weeks, he gave up when he saw there were at least 50,000 people waiting to cross the border.
For the former interpreter who worked with US forces almost every day for more than three years, Faridon still puts his hope in the US government fulfilling its pledges to evacuate Afghan allies like himself.
*The Taliban is an organisation that is currently under UN sanctions for terrorism.