An Afghan interpreter who helped save then-Sen. Joe Biden nearly 13 years ago when he and two other Senators found themselves stranded in a remote Afghan valley was himself rescued from Afghanistan.
Mohammad Aman Khalili, along with his wife and children, were picked up by U.S. military aircraft in Islamabad, Afghanistan, concluding a months-long journey, Safi Rauf, Founder of the “Human First Coalition,” confirmed to Military Times early Monday.
Khalili was previously known publicly as “Mohammad, the interpreter,” with his full name being withheld to protect his family’s identity.
Khalili sent a message to President Biden through the Wall Street Journal on Aug 31 that he had been left behind in Afghanistan as the last U.S troops exited the country.
“Hello Mr. President: Save me and my family,” he told the WSJ. “Don’t forget me here.”
Rauf told Military Times that it took nearly five days to move Khalili and his family from hiding in western Afghanistan to a military flight out of Islamabad, Pakistan.
The Human First Coalition, according to Rauf, moved Khalili and his family from Mazar-E-Sharif to Kabul and then to Helmand province. From there, the Khalili and his family were able to slip across the Pakistani border and on to Islamabad, where a U.S. military fight emanating from Qatar waited.
“We’ve been very busy getting out Biden’s terp,” Rauf told Military Times via text message.
In 2008, according to the WSJ, Khalili was a 36-year-old interpreter working for the U.S. Army in Afghanistan when two Blackhawk helicopters carrying then Sens. Joe Biden (D-Del.), John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) were forced down in a remote valley due to bad weather.
Along with members of the Arizona National Guard and 82nd Airborne Division, Khalili drove “for hours” up into the mountains to rescue the Senators.
“His selfless service to our military men and women is just the kind of service I wish more Americans displayed,” Lt. Col. Andrew R. Till wrote in June, according to the WSJ, to support Khalili’s application for a Special Immigrant Visa.
Khalili’s visa “became stuck” after the defense contractor he was employed by lost his records. According to the WSJ, Khalili, like many other thousands of Afghans, tried to evacuate himself and his family via Hamid Karzai International Airport. However, U.S. troops at the gates of HKIA said they would allow Mohammed in; his family wasn’t eligible, according to the Wall Street Journal. Khalili elected to stay behind with his wife and children.
“We are grateful for the continued support of Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan, and director of ISI Lt. Gen Nadeem Anjum for their continued support of the evacuation, Secretary Antony Blinken, Congressman Jeff Fortenberry, Senator Chris Coon[s], Chief of Staff DoS Suzie George, Director of Task Force Islamabad Mark Terkowski for evacuating the family of Aman Khalili, President Joe Biden’s interpreter from Islamabad and their promise to evacuate the remaining 200 people the remain in Islamabad,” Rauf told Military Times.
James R. Webb is a rapid response reporter for Military Times. He served as a US Marine infantryman in Iraq. Additionally, he has worked as a Legislative Assistant in the US Senate and as an embedded photographer in Afghanistan.