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US citizen describes chaotic journey out of Kabul

A former interpreter for the U.S. Army flew to Kabul in July to visit his ill mother and had to flee when the Taliban took the capital.
US Afghanistan
Posted at 9:40 PM, Aug 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-23 21:40:17-04

Abdul Sami is a U.S. citizen, now living at a military base in Texas with shellshocked Afghan refugees – including his brother and father-in-law. He found a quiet spot and spoke with us Monday, though his connection was fuzzy.

"Too many are here and then more are coming," he said. "For a lot of people, it's very stressful, especially for women and some other people that they've never been in the Army. The living is kind of hard for them. It's very stressful and they can't wait to leave."

A former interpreter for the U.S. Army, he flew to Kabul in July to visit his ill mother and had to flee when the Taliban took the capital.

After three tries, his son wounded in the crowds, Sami and his family finally made it into the airport – and onto a military plane.

"Everyone was sitting, no space in front of you, like zero space, like everyone was just sitting on their feet," Sami says. "It was so hard. No one was able to sleep or do anything. Once we get there, so there was no room or shelter for us to go. So we had to wait for like five hours or more than that in the airplane."

They landed in Qatar, where officials rushed to move people to the U.S. or Germany, to make room for more passengers coming from Kabul.

His parents are still in hiding. His brother and father-in-law are now applying for Priority 2 visas.

But that first crucial step of getting to the airport is becoming more dangerous. There was a bomb threat by ISIS’ Afghan affiliate, ISIS-K, on Sunday; An Afghan soldier killed in an exchange of gunfire Monday morning; And Taliban militants who aren’t just shooting rifles and beating people with sticks. Sources tell Newsy they are charging between $1,000 to $3,000 per person for safe passage to the airport.

Then there are the desperate crowds: One interpreter told Newsy he was separated from his elderly father.

The mass of people is getting larger as the August 31 deadline for U.S. troops to leave comes closer.

A Taliban spokesperson warned Monday any extension is a dangerous red line:

"If they are intent on continuing the occupation, so it will provoke a reaction," said Suhail Shaheen, Taliban spokesperson.

The Defense Department says it has conducted at least two rescue missions, rotary airlifts, to help Americans. Officials also say troops have extended secure access to the airport but they’re only letting in U.S. passport and green card holders along with foreigners.

This story was originally reported by Sasha Ingber on Newsy.com.