It was supposed to be a happy family time. But during the five-hour trip on May 12, as Pardis, 32, was driving through an expanse of desert, his vehicle was blocked at a checkpoint by Taliban militants.
“They were telling him that you are a spy for the Americans, you are the eyes of the Americans and you are infidels, and we will kill you and your family,” his friend and colleague Abdulhaq Ayoubi told CNN.
As he approached the checkpoint, Pardis stepped on the accelerator to accelerate. He was not seen alive again.
Villagers who witnessed the incident told the Red Crescent that the Taliban shot at her car before she swerved and stopped. They then dragged Pardis out of the vehicle and beheaded him.
In a statement released in June, the Taliban said it would not hurt those working alongside foreign forces. A Taliban spokesperson told CNN they were trying to verify details of the incident, but said some of the incidents were not as described.
“We cannot breathe here. The Taliban have no mercy on us,” Ayoubi said.
About 18,000 Afghans who worked for the US military applied for a special immigrant visa program that would allow them to travel to the United States.
Previously, the Biden administration had said it was in talks with a number of countries to act as safe havens until the United States can complete the lengthy visa process, a clear sign the government is fine. aware of the imminent threat posed by the Taliban.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said on Wednesday that the Defense Department was “examining options” where Afghan nationals and their families could potentially go.
“We are still examining the possibilities for overseas sites to include some departmental facilities that would be able to support planned resettlement efforts with appropriate temporary residences and supporting infrastructure,” Kirby said.
Pardis has left behind a 9-year-old girl whose future is now uncertain. She is being looked after by her brother, Najibulla Sahak, who told CNN that they had to leave their home in Kabul for their safety, fearing that they would then be targeted.
Speaking from his brother’s grave, on a barren hill among rocks, weeds and flags, Sahak said they are not safe.
“I am so worried for the safety of my family. There is not a lot of work in this country and the security situation is very bad,” he said.
The translators and interviewees in the story agreed to be named because they believe their identities are already known to the Taliban and are actively being hunted down. They think the international exhibition is their last and only option to avoid being killed.
Those who remain fear retaliation
After 16 months working for the United States, Pardis was fired in 2012 after failing a routine polygraph test, or lie detector test. He was looking for a way out of Afghanistan but was not eligible for the special immigrant visa due to his dismissal, his friend Ayoubi said.
The screenings were carried out by a contracted company, the translators said, and they disputed some of the questions asked and found them unreliable.
CNN has contacted the US Department of Defense who has directed questions about the use of polygraphs and the visa process to the State Department.
There are hundreds of Afghan translators who have had their contracts terminated for what they say is an unfair cause. And while the U.S. government has said it will not review these cases, CNN translators fear the same fate as Pardis if they stay in Afghanistan.
Abdul Rashid Shirzad is one of them. He served for five years as a linguist alongside the US military elite, translating for US special forces.
He showed CNN photos of his missions in the Kejran Valley, Uruzgan province, working with the US Navy’s SEAL 10 team. But according to Shirzad, his service now amounts to a death sentence. The US government rejected his special immigrant visa, and he said this made him a target for the Taliban.
“If they catch me, they’re going to kill me, kill my kids and my wife too. It’s time to get revenge for them, you know,” he said.
The father-of-three said his contract with the US military was terminated in 2014 after also failing a polygraph test. He had applied for his visa the previous year.
But Shirzad’s letters of recommendation from SEAL commanders, seen by CNN, reflect a translator who went above and beyond his duties. They describe him as a “valuable and necessary asset” that “braved enemy fire” and “without doubt saved the lives of Americans and Afghans”.
Shirzad said he was excited to work with the Americans and became a senior liaison between US and Afghan special forces. A letter of recommendation for the visa from a US commander described how Shirzad had participated in 63 “high risk direct action combat missions” and was “critical” to the success of his team’s operations. He details how he helped recover a team member who was caught in an explosion and suffered life-threatening injuries.
Shirzad said he had no idea what he had done wrong and was never given an explanation for his dismissal. His visa denial letter from the US Embassy indicated “a lack of loyal and valuable service.”
“If we had peace in Afghanistan, if I hadn’t served in the US military, if the Taliban didn’t blame me, I would never leave my country,” he said.
Shirzad cannot return to his home province and moves with his family every month.
Hugging their youngest child, his wife said they were terrified of being captured by the Taliban.
“We are very afraid. The future of my husband and my children is in danger,” she said. “My husband was working with them and he put his life in danger and now I want the Americans to save my husband from harm.”
Translators think America has abandoned them
A spokesperson for the US embassy in Kabul said they “are actively working on all possible contingencies to ensure that we can help those who have helped us.”
“We have been saying for a long time that we are committed to supporting those who have helped the United States military and other members of the government to carry out their tasks, often risking their lives and that of their families,” said the spokesperson. word.
“To be clear, our embassy in Kabul will continue to function after our forces withdraw. SIV processing will continue, including for those who remain in Afghanistan, and we will continue to increase our resources to process requests throughout. wherever possible.”
The visa verification process is long and complex, and each applicant is assessed to determine if they pose a risk to U.S. national security, according to the SIV Program Quarterly Report. There are also many reasons why visa applications are rejected, including those that do not qualify due to the nature of their job or the lack of time at work.
The spokesperson for the US Embassy said visa records are confidential under US law, therefore, they cannot discuss the details of individual visa cases. All visa applications are considered on a case-by-case basis, they said.
On July 8, US President Joe Biden pledged to evacuate Afghan interpreters and their families who worked alongside US troops in Afghanistan.
“Our message to these women and men is clear: there is a home for you in the United States, if you wish, and we will be by your side, just as you have been with us,” Biden said.
But Afghans who have been rejected say they feel America has abandoned them.
Ayoubi, friend and colleague of Pardis noted
“I thought we would have a beautiful Afghanistan. We never thought about this situation like now,” he said.
“We ask President Biden to save us. We have helped you and you must help us.”