David Rohde owes Tahir Luddin more than just a debt of gratitude. Twelve years ago, the two men, along with an Afghan driver, were kidnapped by the Taliban. Luddin, a journalist like Rohde, led Rohde to safety during a middle-of-the-night escape after seven months of being held. Luddin moved to the States, became a citizen, and brought his five oldest kids to America. In a lengthy piece for the New Yorker, Rohde details his months-long—and essentially futile—effort to help Luddin get his wife and other children out of Afghanistan as the Taliban drew closer. Luddin himself spent two months in Kabul trying to get them visas, finally returning in June having made little progress. Rohde, despite all his contacts, was getting nowhere himself.
Administration staffers gave him "caring replies but the same message: there was nothing that could be done for Tahir's family in Kabul," he writes, as priority was being given to the Afghans who assisted the US as translators—and some three months after President Biden had announced the coming withdrawal, only about 700 of 20,000 translators had made it to the US. A contact at the State Department couldn't provide any new information. A frustrated Rohde sees a cruel parallel: "The same discounted value of Afghan lives compared to American ones had been in effect during our confinement. Tahir and [the driver] would have been executed before me, because [as an American] my life was considered more valuable than theirs. Now, a dozen years later, American diplomats were being rescued—but the Biden Administration, intentionally or not, had created the conditions for a humanitarian catastrophe for Afghans." (Read the full story.)