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Left behind

For the last two weeks, James, an Afghan who for seven years worked as a translator for the U.S. military, has been trying everything he can imagine to get out of Afghanistan.

By the account of his U.S. commander, Brad Lovin, James has risked his life many times on missions with Americans. And he’s been trying to get out of Afghanistan since 2014, when he first applied for the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program.

But James (WORLD is using a pseudonym because of security concerns) is about to be abandoned after the United States repeatedly promised for years to help translators get out.

“Those who helped us are not going to be left behind,” U.S. President Joe Biden said in June, referring to Afghans.

Every time someone knocks on the door, James’ 8-year-old, the oldest of three children, jumps and asks if it’s the Taliban. James has tried to comfort the child by saying the Taliban is the government now.

“My kids don’t know what they will do to me, but I know what they will do,” James told me by phone Friday. “If we run to the airport and they shoot us? You can’t question them. If they take us out in front of our house and shoot us, who can question them?”

The Taliban arrived at the houses of neighbors, who were in the Afghan army, and took them away, he said. The Taliban hate Afghans who collaborated with Americans more than they hate Americans, he said.

While James has waited for an SIV since 2014, his American commander, Lovin, also applied for a P-2 visa for him. They also applied through the United Kingdom government, but that hope evaporated on Saturday as the U.K. ended evacuation flights. Over the years he has tried smuggling routes out of the country. Nothing has worked.

This week James waited for hours in several feet of filthy water outside the airport gate with his SIV application documents and letters of recommendation from Lovin and other American commanders. U.S. soldiers said they were only allowing U.S. passport and green card holders. James finally left when he could no longer stand.

Read more at World Magazine

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