The Taliban’s takeover has endangered the lives of thousands of Afghans who worked with the US in Afghanistan during the 20-year war, online news media National Public Radio (NPR) reported on Monday.
These Afghan nationals mainly worked as drivers and translators, helping the US and coalition members. But, with the Taliban in control now and US troops and diplomatic staff vacating the country, they are now vulnerable.
An Afghan interpreter who worked alongside the US army for nine years, whom Americans called Reggie, told NPR that he has been living in constant fear since the Taliban takeover.
NPR decided not to disclose Reggie’s full name for security reasons.
Reggie said that since the extremist group arrived in Kabul (where he resides), he has been unable to sleep.
“I can’t sleep for a single minute,” he said, adding that he is worried because there are pictures of him with US military members online and that the Taliban would not tolerate it if they found out.
Shortly after Kabul’s police abandoned the city during the Taliban’s takeover on Sunday, he stood on the roof of his house watching the extremist militants move through his neighborhood.
Reggie said that upon entering his neighborhood, the Taliban said: “Don’t worry. We are here for your protection” and “We’re not going to harm any of you guys. And we are here for the enemy of this country.”
He added that while the extremist group “were actually giving people time in order to be relaxed” he still did not trust their words.
“I’m standing out in front of my house, but I’m not feeling safe, he told NPR. “There isn’t a single moment that I can be feeling relaxed.”
Reggie is one of around 20,000 Afghans, along with 53,000 of their family members, who are still waiting for a special immigrant visa to be able to migrate to the US, NPR reported.
The 14-step process usually takes around three and a half years on average, nonprofit organization No One Left Behind, estimated.
The nonprofit, that has been working to help interpreters secure their US visas, has said that 300 Afghan interpreters and their family members have been killed since 2001 due to them being associated with US forces.
Reggie was injured in a suicide bomb attack which left 23 pieces of shrapnel stuck in his body, back when he was working with the US army. He still suffers from those injuries today, often not being able to control his own body.
“Because of my service, my family is suffering right now,” he said.