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He Helped Rescue Biden in 2008. Now He's Stuck in Afghanistan

Interpreter raced to save Biden after then-senator's helicopter made emergency landing
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 31, 2021 5:47 PM CDT
Updated Sep 1, 2021 12:16 PM CDT
He Helped Rescue Biden in 2008. Now He's Stuck in Afghanistan
A member of the Afghan security forces walks in the sprawling Bagram air base after the American military departed last month.   (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul, File)

(Newser) Update: After the Wall Street Journal published the story of an Afghan interpreter who helped get then-Sen. Joe Biden out of Afghanistan in 2008, White House officials pledged to now get the interpreter out too. Politico quotes White House chief of staff Ron Klain as saying that he "read in that story that [Mohammed] did not finish the [Special Immigrant Visa] process because of some complexity with his employer. It doesn’t matter. We're going to cut through the red tape. We're going to find this gentleman ... and we're going to get him and the other SIVs out." Our original story follows:

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Mohammed is an Afghan man who helped President Biden when he was stranded in a remote area of the country in 2008 during a trip on Senate business. Now, Mohammed is stranded in Afghanistan. In early 2008—weeks after he suspended his second presidential campaign and months before he became Barack Obama's running mate—Biden was stranded in a mountain valley when the Black Hawk helicopters carrying him and two other senators were forced to land during a snowstorm, the Wall Street Journal reports. The area wasn't the safest: Around two dozen Taliban fighters had been killed in a battle with US troops 10 miles away a day earlier.

Mohammed, then an interpreter for the US Army, joined a Quick Reaction Force that drove for hours from Bagram Air Field through heavy snow on a rescue mission, former Arizona National Guard staff sergeant Brian Genthe tells the Journal. He says Mohammed—a trusted interpreter who was given a weapon when he accompanied soldiers on dangerous missions—stayed with soldiers guarding the helicopters as a convoy brought Biden, then chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Sens. John Kerry and Chuck Hagel back to Bagram.

Genthe says Mohammed's visa application was held up after a defense contractor lost records—and after the Taliban takeover this month, he was told by US soldiers at Kabul's airport that he could enter, but not his wife and four children. Army veterans who had supported the visa application urged lawmakers to help, but Mohammed and his family didn't make it out and they are now in hiding. "Hello Mr. President: Save me and my family," he told the Journal Monday. "Don’t forget me here." (Read more Afghanistan stories.)

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