EXCLUSIVE: 'Biden, Generals Went Against 200 Years of Military Mindset and Honor' in Abandoning Afghan Interpreters

Afghan interpreter "Mohammed" with Joe Biden, John Kerry, and Chuck Hagel in Afghanistan, 2008. Used with permission.

As we watched Afghanistan fall to the Taliban in mid-August, and through the time we surrendered on August 30, we were astonished at the ineptitude displayed by the Biden administration in every facet of the operation, but we weren’t astonished that we were being lied to. We all knew when White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki continually insisted that every American who wanted to get out of Afghanistan had been evacuated that she wasn’t telling the truth. We knew that the administration’s promise to get those Afghans who worked with us during 20 years of war out of the country was worth nothing. We just didn’t know how bad the truth was.

Now the truth is starting to come to light, and it shows that it wasn’t just Biden who had a lackadaisical attitude about leaving Americans and trusted Afghan allies – to whom we’d made sacred promises – behind. Even some of our top military commanders, including Gen. Milley, Gen. McKenzie, and Gen. Donahue, were okay with turning people away at the gate and essentially leaving them behind on the runway.

In one specific instance we reported a few weeks ago, at least 50 people, including Americans and Afghan personnel, were left behind at the airport in Kabul during the last hours of the Afghanistan withdrawal so Maj. Gen. Chris Donahue could load a Taliban Toyota Hilux with a rear-mounted Russian anti-aircraft cannon onto the airplane as a war trophy.

Donahue claims that the Hilux is not a war trophy and that no “personnel” were left behind in order to accommodate it, but the claim doesn’t hold water.

One of the people left behind in Kabul was “Mohammed,” a translator who was working with the 82nd Airborne in 2008 when he helped rescue Biden, John Kerry, and Chuck Hagel after their helicopter made an emergency landing in the mountains near Bagram Air Field during a snowstorm. Mohammed, who’d stood guard for 30 hours during that snowstorm to ensure Biden’s safety, wasn’t able to get his family through the gates at Hamid Karzai International Airport in those last harried days of the United States’ withdrawal. On the very last day, likely at the same time that Donahue was having that Taliban hunk of junk loaded onto a C-17, Mohammed sent a message to Biden via the Wall Street Journal:

“Hello, Mr. President: Save me and my family. Don’t forget me here.”

Forget, he did. Through his press secretary, he gave lip service to Mohammed, sending another hollow promise that he’d definitely get him out. But, no thanks to Biden, McKenzie, Milley, or Donahue, Mohammed and his family were finally able to escape Afghanistan and arrived in the United States last week.

Fortunately, Politico is now reporting that Secretary of State Antony Blinken has ordered multiple investigations into his department’s operations during the Afghanistan withdrawal, noting “the elevated interest in this work by Congress.” Among the areas to be reviewed:

[T]he State Department’s Special Immigrant Visa program; Afghans processed for refugee admission into the U.S.; resettlement of those refugees and visa recipients; and the emergency evacuation of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul “to include evacuation of U.S. citizens and Afghan nationals.”

The Department of Defense has launched its own internal investigations into similar areas. According to multiple military, diplomatic, and intelligence community sources who spoke to RedState on condition of anonymity in order to speak freely, there’s a bit of a blame game going on between the State Department and the Department of Defense over who botched the withdrawal, so the outcome of those investigations – and any potential congressional hearings – will be interesting.

Regardless, military veterans and even some active-duty soldiers who were on the ground in Afghanistan (but who cannot speak lest they be Schellered) are extremely upset that we left Americans and people like Mohammed, who put their lives on the line to help our soldiers accomplish the mission and keep them safe, behind. One veteran who served in the first Gulf War and in Afghanistan, and who participated in that 2008 rescue with Mohammed spoke exclusively to RedState about the withdrawal, about that “rescue” in February 2008, and about Mohammed, who we now know as Aman Khalili. Though his experiences were more than a decade ago, he was still emotional as he shared them with me. It’s important to hear these stories of individuals translators, knowing that there are thousands of men like him who believed in what America stood for and were willing, just like the men and women of our Armed Forces, to die for it.

The veteran still has family members on active duty, so we are honoring his request that his name not be used in this piece.

“In leaving both Americans and Afghans who helped us, like Mohammed, behind, Biden and the guys in charge went against over 200 years of military mindset and honor. We don’t leave anyone behind. If you look throughout Marine Corps and Army history you’ll find where four or five soldiers or Marines died to save one. We promised the interpreters we would protect them. We have to keep those promises, because if they don’t have confidence that they won’t be left behind, how do you get a guy to stay in a war zone?

“And, we knew that the Afghan Army wouldn’t stand once we left. If it takes 40 years to get from a lieutenant to a general, why could we think we could build their army in 20 years? And knowing that it wouldn’t stand, how could we leave without a plan to get everyone out?

“In Afghanistan, every interpreter was afraid for their life. Even back in 2008, they were whacking interpreters. So for him to be an interpreter, it’s like you’re putting yourself out there on Main Street for everybody to see you. Interpreters very seldom left that gate without their faces being covered. Even in 2007-2008, we knew that the guys in the Afghan Army and the Afghan police might turn on you. You only wanted to take an interpreter you could trust when you went outside the wire.

“Mohammed was a trusted interpreter. As a young guy he’d been a fighter against the Russians, so he had a vested interest in Afghanistan’s future. We knew all of the interpreters and their reputations, and one reason we took Mohammed with us that night was the fact that we knew he wouldn’t turn on us.

“For example, interpreters weren’t allowed to carry a weapon. But, a couple of times it was really ugly and I took my pistol off and gave it to him. One of those times we were working with the 7th Group to get an HVT, high-value target. We were the outer cordon for the mission. For special operations units, their biggest fear is being surrounded once they’re on a target, so our goal was to set up a blocking force, to go down the road and make sure nobody comes up. They told us, ‘No matter what, don’t stop.’ Well, the truck behind us ran off the road but we never stopped. We had to get that roadblock up down there. We threw up the roadblock, but now the trucks we’re supposed to have with us weren’t with us anymore. This is one of the first times that we were truly operating in the real world at night. I took out my pistol and gave it to him. I told him, ‘You get stupid and I’ll shoot you.’ Of course, he didn’t [get stupid].

“On the night of the rescue, the 82nd Airborne controlled the AO or the area of operations. The unit I was with was the QRF, or quick reaction force, for the Bagram zone. The QRF got a call that a helicopter with a VIP has had to make an emergency landing in the mountains in an area that’s known as Afghanistan’s equivalent to the Ho Chi Minh trail, a big area where weapons, ammunition, and the Taliban flowed through. We knew the Taliban would find out they were there in no time, so the race was on to see who would get to them first.

A US Army helicopter during the rescue of Sens. Joe Biden, John Kerry, and Chuck Hagel in Afghanistan, February 2008. Used with permission.

“So, we loaded up into our pre-staged vehicles and grabbed a few interpreters, including Mohammed, and then two or three up-armored Toyotas joined us. I didn’t know who they were, but I knew that those Toyotas would bring the VIPs down.

“I’ve seen some questioning why Special Forces or Delta or SEALs and those guys weren’t called in for such high-level VIPs. Well, that’s because it wasn’t in their area of operation. It was the 82nd Airborne’s AO, and they already had a QRF in place.

“It was snowing when we left Bagram, and we were probably looking at a 20, 25-mile trip one way. We were probably at 7000 feet and going up to about 10 or 11,000 feet. As we went up into the mountains, the snow started getting deeper, to the point where the snow was knee and thigh deep. Bill McClain, the squad leader, was in the lead vehicle and was the true hero of that part of the mission. It started snowing so hard that it got to the point where you couldn’t see the road anymore. Stopping wasn’t an option, but on this road driving off the road was driving off of a cliff. At the edge of the road, it went straight down. McClain is a guy who could find his way blind; somehow he just knew where he was going. So he started to walk the trucks up, walking alongside us so we wouldn’t drive off the road.

The US Army helicopters that were carrying Sens. Biden, Kerry, and Hagel in Afghanistan, February 2008. Used with permission.

 

“We got up the hill and after securing the area and making sure the VIPs were going to be safe, we got them loaded up in the up-armored Toyotas to get to them to the base. A piece of the platoon escorted the up-armored Toyotas and the VIPs off the hill, and the rest of the platoon stayed up with the helicopters for three days until the weather cleared and the pilots could get the helicopter.

John Kerry, then a US Senator, walks down the road near a helicopter grounded in Afghanistan.

“To show you how little Kerry knew about how things work, when we’d laid out the chains to put on the tires to make the trip down the hill, he kicked them out of the way as he walked by. So we had to lay them back out again.

“The military doesn’t care that the military left. What the military cares about is leaving people behind. It’s not in the military’s nature. The Woke generals have violated an oath that’s been in place for nearly 200 years. That’s why many veterans are coming apart, because how do you square this with our military tradition? You can’t. In my opinion, Biden made a deal with the Taliban to get out. But why?

“For those involved in the withdrawal, it had to have been heart-wrenching to know that you’re leaving your people behind because it goes against everything we’ve been taught.”