Afghan refugee describes emotional journey to the USA after fleeing Kabul: “I left part of my family there”


As an interpreter for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Selanee worked alongside Rodriguez when he was posted to Kunar Province, helping countless U.S. soldiers work with locals and navigate a dangerous region. In this way, it became a primary target for the Taliban when they took control of Afghanistan.

“They have already started going into the soldiers’ houses looking for them, you know? And asking their families to bring your son. Give us guns, give us this, give us that,” Selanee said about the Taliban.

“To be honest, our soldiers only served their country and made some money to support their families.”

Though the Taliban said they would not harm those who worked with foreign troops, revenge attacks have been reported; According to witness statements, an interpreter was dragged out of his car and beheaded by Taliban fighters in May. And while the Biden administration pledged to support Afghans who worked for and on behalf of the US government and the US military, Selanee’s hectic trip to the US underscores the dangers of special immigrant visa applicants when leaving Afghanistan facing.

Selanee started interpreting as a teenager and worked with U.S. forces from 2007 to 2013, Rodriguez said. He then became the commander of an elite Afghan unit and rose to lieutenant colonel.

As the Taliban swept across Afghanistan this month, taking city after city, Selanee fought alongside his men as a commander in Kandahar before withdrawing with his troops and making his way to Kabul airport to join US forces helped secure the perimeter.

At the airport, he was reunited with his family, including his wife, a younger brother and five children. They boarded an evacuation flight to Qatar and then flew on to Germany and then to the USA.

“I don’t know where they’re taking us next. To be honest, sir, we have no idea what’s going to happen the next day, you know?” he told CNN from the hangar in Qatar that his family shared with dozens of other evacuees.

Instead of flying to Germany, the Selanee family was flown to Washington. To tell Rodriguez where he was headed, a flight attendant wrote on a napkin: “Washington DC USA, Airport: IAD.”

Rodriguez immediately bought a ticket and flew out of Seattle to follow Selanee’s progress with messages they exchanged on WhatsApp. Selanee told Rodriguez that they were stopped and that his wife and son were admitted to a hospital in Loudoun County, Virginia.

24 hours after Selanee’s arrival, Rodriguez learned that the family had been moved to temporary accommodation near Dulles Airport.

“This guy is special for a number of reasons. Look, all of these people have gone through hell and back. But this guy is special because he’s extremely loyal to Americans,” Rodriguez said. “And then he, and then, you know, he took command of what is probably the most elite special unit in all of Afghanistan.”

Rodriguez bought Selanee, now processed in Fort Lee, Virginia, new clothes and a phone when he begins his life in the country where he helped for years in Afghanistan.

But over his new life in the United States, he worries about family members who haven’t made it.

Almost all of the countries involved in evacuation efforts – Canada, Australia, New Zealand, France, Spain, Italy, and more – have ceased operations and withdrawn from the country. The last US military planes left Kabul on Monday, marking the complete withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan.

“I’m happy because I’m safe with my family here,” said Selanee. “But I’m still unhappy because I left part of my family there.”


Leave A Reply