Sep 03 , 2021
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: The US State Department is blocking a group of Navy Veterans working alongside Greater Change1, a nonprofit humanitarian organization, from rescuing Americans & at-risk Afghans from the ‘police-state2’-like behavior spreading across Afghanistan. For nearly a week, several planes have sat empty, awaiting increasingly-hopeless passengers who are left wondering why the US government is denying them a chance at life.
The privately-funded charter flights are patiently awaiting the carefully-vetted passengers to board, but instead, everyone is trapped in the limbo of yet another unplanned night at a nearby hotel. They watch savings dwindle and anxieties rise, desperate for the blessing of a government that seems to have already forgotten them. Lives swing in the balance of a single word of approval from the State Department. Without this, regardless of the fact that their paperwork is as meticulously in order as their lives might be in disarray, not one foot will be allowed to cross the steel threshold to freedom. And in 24 hours, the patience of the planes will end, and they will ascend into the cold sky holding little other than wasted effort and broken dreams.
Despite Biden’s grandiose proclamation on Wednesday that the US military withdrawal and evacuation mission from Afghanistan has been “an extraordinary success3,” these paralyzed flights were to include many Americans who were overlooked in the mad and senseless scramble of the past weeks. While the actual number can not be divulged due to security reasons, nearly every Afghan destined for these flights faces certain death4 if the US doesn’t act. It’s widely known the Taliban have been searching door-to-door5 for anyone who previously worked with US forces, and when searches prove unsuccessful, the Talibs resort to threatening family members.6
With what must be caustic irony, among the hopeful evacuees is none other than Mohammed, with his wife and four children, an Afghan interpreter heralded for rescuing then-Senator Joe Biden himself7 (along with John Kerry and Chuck Hagel) in 2013. Mohammed stood guard over them for 30 hours in subzero temperatures when their helicopters went down in a snowstorm8 near Afghanistan’s Bagram Air Force Base. On Tuesday, WH Press Secretary Jen Psaki referenced Mohammed in a press briefing9, saying, ‘‘Thank you for fighting by our side for the last 20 years. Our commitment is enduring, not just to American citizens, but to our Afghan partners who have fought by our side. We will get you out. We will honor your service, and we’re committed to doing exactly that.’ Psaki’s calculated words may say one thing, but they are in grave danger of being wholly undermined by Biden’s own actions.10
Another hopeful evacuee is a ten-year-old girl, orphaned when her parents were killed at the Kabul Airport bombing last week. Zenat Drown,11 Greater Change founder, explained the deep sense of betrayal felt by those who secured and funded the flights, only to have the safety of their vulnerable families endangered by the US government: “Biden has referred to US systemic racism as ‘a knee on the neck of justice for Black Americans’,12 but Biden’s own personal injustice is a knee on the neck of every Afghan girl.”
American and Afghan lives alike are depending on the State Department for approval on flights that are already arranged, paid for, and awaiting them. It is now left to the Biden administration to decide whether it wants to sign off on their flight manifests—or write off their existence."
1Greater Change website
2As the Taliban Tighten Their Grip, Fears of Retribution Grow New York Times, 2021
3'Biden's Speech on Withdrawal From Afghanistan: Full Transcript New York Times, 2021
4'Surrender or die': Taliban warns those who helped Western forces NewsBytes, 2021
5Taliban Reportedly Going Door-To-Door, Killing US Allies And 'Traitors' International Business Times, 2021
6Taliban going door-to-door hunting for targets who worked for Western forces Independent, 2021
8Image of Biden's helicopter stranded in snow storm, 2013 Wall Street Journal, 2021
9Afghan Interpreter Who Helped Rescue Biden in 2008 Left Behind After US Exit - WSJ Wall Street Journal, 2021
10Opinion | The U.S. government left its own journalists behind in Afghanistan The Washington Post, 2021
11Zenat Drown Greater Change Founder.jpeg Greater Change Website