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Former US translator fears for his family, stranded in Afghanistan amid Taliban takeover

For years, 'Faiz' served alongside US troops in Afghanistan, acting as a translator. Today, as his former home falls into the hands of the Taliban that he helped to fight, he's a US citizen staying in Medford.

Posted: Aug 18, 2021 7:32 PM
Updated: Aug 31, 2021 4:34 PM

MEDFORD, Ore. — For years, "Faiz" served alongside US troops in Afghanistan, acting as a translator. Today, as his former home falls into the hands of the Taliban that he helped to fight, he's a US citizen staying in Medford. But his presence here is not a source of relief, because his wife, mother and siblings are still in Afghanistan, trying desperately to leave.

"It's a matter of life, basically, for them," Faiz told NewsWatch 12 on Wednesday, "and it's a world of worry for people like me . . . I'm here, and I want to help them."

Faiz is a pseudonym. With his family still in Afghanistan, working to get out, he fears that they could face reprisals if his full identity were to be made public.

"They're going to go after the people that supported the U.S. mission or the Afghan government affiliates. That is a great concern of mine, and thousands of people like me who have families there and it's terrifying," the translator said.

This predicament is not one that Faiz expected. As American forces pulled out of Afghanistan, the Taliban's reconquest of the country came with sickening swiftness. While US officials publicly speculated that the U.S.-supported Afghan government could collapse within a matter of a few months, the takeover took little more than a week.

"Taliban does not represent Afghanistan, I want people to know that clearly," Faiz said.

On August 6, the Taliban seized the city of Zaranj, a provincial capital on the country's southwestern border with Iran and Pakistan. Four more provincial capitals on the north side of the country fell within the next two days. By August 13, about half of Afghanistan's provincial capitals were in Taliban hands, including the major cities of Kandahar and Herat. Two days later, on August 15, Taliban fighters had seized the nation's capitol in Kabul.

"I think there's not any sane person who knows a little bit about the scenario that would think it was a wise decision," Faiz said of the US withdrawal. "As an Afghan, there is no person in Afghanistan that wants a foreign force there forever. But the timing for this, evacuating Afghanistan was horrible and it couldn't be worse."

The fall of Kabul marked the beginning of a desperate campaign to airlift US civilian staff and Afghan allies out of the country, with American troops holding the airport as a final means of egress and a makeshift refugee camp. Thousands of Afghans fleeing Taliban rule flocked to the airport, sometimes with tragic consequences.

Now, as the Taliban cements its rule throughout Afghanistan, an uneasy truce reigns at the Kabul airport as US troops continue to work on processing refugees and put them on flights out of the country, with US officials saying that the Taliban has committed to providing "safe passage" for refugees. But reports on the ground suggest that violence at at the airport checkpoints is all too common.

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