WASHINGTON — The White House responded Tuesday to the plea of an Afghan interpreter who helped rescue then-Sen. Joe Biden and two other senators in a 2008 snowstorm, reiterating the president’s pledge to use diplomacy to work to evacuate remaining allies still in Afghanistan who wish to leave.
“We will get you out, we will honor your service, and we’re committed to doing exactly that,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.
The Wall Street Journal reported the interpreter – only identified as Mohammed by the newspaper – his wife and four children are in hiding from the Taliban after a “years-long attempt” to leave Afghanistan got mired in bureaucracy. As the final troops left Afghanistan on Monday, Mohammed asked Biden to save his family.
“Hello Mr. President: Save me and my family,” Mohammed told the Journal. “Don’t forget me here.”
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When he was 36 years old, the newspaper reported, Mohammed rode with U.S. troops into blinding snow in search of two U.S Army Black Hawk helicopters carrying Biden – then a senator from Delaware – and former Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass. and Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., that were forced to make emergency landings in a remote Afghanistan valley.
Mohammed, who was stationed at Bagram Air Field, responded to a call for help and joined Army Humvees and three Blackwater SUVs to look for the helicopters. At the scene, Mohammed stood guard with Afghan Army soldiers on one side of the helicopter, according to the Journal, and used a blow horn to shoo off spectators.
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“First, our message to him is thank you for fighting by our side for the last 20 years,” Psaki said at a White House press briefing when asked for a response to Mohammed’s plea. “Thank you for the role you played in helping a number of my favorite people out of a snowstorm, and for all of the work you did.”
Psaki said the administration’s commitment is “enduring, not just to American citizens but to our Afghan partners who have fought by our side.”
The Biden administration says it helped evacuate more than 123,000 people out of Afghanistan before Monday’s military withdrawal, including 5,500 Americans. In a speech Tuesday, Biden said the U.S. helped get “thousands of Afghan translators and interpreters and others who supported the United States out as well.”
Biden said his administration would “make arrangements” to evacuate remaining Americans if they choose.
“As for the Afghans, we and our partners have airlifted 100,000 of them. No country in history has done more to airlift out the residents of another country that we have done. We will continue to work to help more people leave the country who are at risk. We’re far from done.”
Reach Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrison.
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