A network of “hundreds of thousands” of people, including analysts using satellite imagery to locate Taliban checkpoints around Kabul airport, is coordinating to evacuate Afghan interpreters from the country, told Fox News an Afghanistan war veteran and coalition member.
These interpreters, now targeted by the Taliban, were essential allies of the United States during the war in Afghanistan and played much larger roles than mere translators, according to Matt Zeller. The Biden administration has faced strong criticism that the United States has not made its evacuation a priority.
“These people we’re talking about… they were our eyes and ears on the battlefield,” Zeller told Fox News. He said they would hear Taliban communications ordering fighters to shoot the interpreters first.
“From the Taliban’s point of view, they won,” Zeller, a former CIA analyst, continued. The Afghan interpreters “are the people who have helped us kill them over the past 20 years.”
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“They want revenge, they want retaliation,” he said. “There is no place for these people in Afghanistan.”
It is estimated that at least 20,000 Afghan interpreters and members of their families are trapped in Afghanistan.
Zeller described a “digital dunkirk” campaign to evacuate Afghan interpreters. He said “hundreds of thousands” of people joined the movement after just a few weeks, but it could reach millions by the end.
“If you’ve served in the war in Afghanistan and still care about these people, there’s a good chance you’re probably part of the Digital Dunkirk,” Zeller told Fox News.
He said it started out as an “army of veterans” being harassed by Afghans, but the network has grown to include human rights, faith and peace organizations. Politics.
“It’s amazing,” Zeller said. “They are not just veterans. Literally, they are pastors, it is my mother, it is my relatives, people who have never served in Afghanistan… widows, widowers, children of people who served. “
“We had intelligence analysts come in and started analyzing satellite imagery and creating products for people where they map Taliban checkpoints in real time using data from social media” for providing safe routes to the airport, Zeller told Fox News.
The Taliban have said they will forgive all Afghans who helped the United States during the war. But the extremist group has established checkpoints blocking the way to Kabul airport, and numerous reports have indicated that they are recording or killing anyone they find allies against them.
Afghans with direct or family ties to US troops “will be reported missing” by the Taliban, the brother of an interpreter previously told Fox News.
“If you have an English document with you at that checkpoint, they take that document,” Zeller told Fox News. “And they note that you are now on their list.”
Immediately after Zeller joined Fox News on a Zoom call, he asked to delay the interview and began typing on his phone. He apologized and said he was helping someone “get away from the Taliban”.
“I spend most of my nightly texting with Afghans, telling them ‘no, this is the door you must now try to get to. Oh, well, here is where this Taliban checkpoint is, you. have to take that street to literally move them, ”Zeller said.
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But the Afghans’ struggles continue even after they overtake the Taliban and reach the airport.
“If you have people getting there, they have to be prepared to wait until nine, 10 am, in horribly hot and humid conditions with no water, no food or no toilet,” Zeller told Fox News. “Just the worst possible conditions you can think of.”
“Because on top of that, the Taliban are shooting indiscriminately at the crowd and over everyone’s heads,” he continued. “It’s just complete and utter chaos.”
Zeller described a case where he managed to get a US citizen through a door at Kabul airport after speaking with a marine over loudspeaker.
“The rest of her family was there behind her,” Zeller told Fox News. “They are not yet US citizens and have not been allowed entry.”
“She had to make the heartbreaking decision to leave her family behind,” he continued. “It plays out over and over again.”
“I have friends who have told me that they literally have American citizens standing in the crowd waving their blue passports yelling ‘I am an American citizen’, and the Marines cannot come and pick them up,” said Zeller.
Zeller said the United States was responsible for evacuating the Afghan interpreters.
If they’re not evacuated now, then “they’re going to be dead, and we’ll be sorry for the rest of our lives that we let them down,” Zeller told Fox News.
He explained how essential they were to American troops.
“We were playing a role in a village and [our interpreter] tapping me on the shoulder and saying ‘something’s wrong here,’ “Zeller said. It’s a bad thing. We usually get attacked when it’s like that.”
“And five minutes later, we get shot,” Zeller continued.
“This kind of insight saves lives,” he said. “This cultural context can never be replaced other than by standing next to someone who comes from there.”
Zeller said he promised to reimburse his interpreter someday for saving the Marine’s life. He was able to help get the interpreter out of Afghanistan.
“I am grateful that I was able to complete it for him, but there are now thousands more, whom Americans have made equally equal and equally important of a promise, who are betrayed and left behind.” , Zeller told Fox News.
He said the United States risked moral prejudice if it did not evacuate the Afghan interpreters.
“I already know of at least one veteran who committed suicide on this,” Zeller told Fox News.
“I would like someone to call and say ‘Major Zeller, you have to put on your uniform, you are sent to Afghanistan to help us,'” Zeller said. “I don’t know a single veteran I’ve spoken to who feels any different.”
He said he can’t imagine what it must be like for US troops at Kabul airport “who have to stand 50 yards from the Taliban and watch them be thugs and not be able to do anything. on this subject”.
Gunshots could be heard in voice memos that a female journalist attempting to leave Afghanistan sent to Fox News. Based on its location, US troops at Kabul airport could likely hear the gunfire.
Zeller said the campaign to evacuate the performers “is an all-America effort … minus the one guy, the one guy, who can give the order to really save these people,” referring to President Biden .
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“I was appalled that the Defense Secretary said he did not have the capacity to ensure the safe movement of Americans to Kabul airport,” Zeller told Fox News. “He absolutely does.”
“He has the US military,” he continued. “What he doesn’t have are orders to move these people.”
“At the end of a war, there are two questions that arise,” Zeller said. “Was it worth it and how to end it?” “
“History decides on the first, we have to decide on the second,” he told Fox News. “For now, we have chosen to end it with deep shame.”
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