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A former U.S. special forces translator reflects on the fall of Kabul


One year ago today, the United States completed its troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. The U.S. airlifted out more than 100,000 civilians, including many Afghans who aided the United States during its 20-year war. Others still want out. And we talked with some during our recent reporting there. Safi Rauf is trying to help them.


Rauf is an Afghan American who once worked as an interpreter for U.S. Special Forces in Afghanistan. As Kabul fell to the Taliban last August, he offered help with the evacuation.

SAFI RAUF: Our team that was on the ground, you know, I was on phone with them, directing them what to do, who to pick and where to go because different federal agencies and different U.S. departments, agencies, were calling us and giving us, you know, the information about people. And as I was talking to these team members, in the background, the shooting never stopped.

FADEL: Rauf is the founder of the Human First Coalition, an organization trying to resettle Afghans.

INSKEEP: And after the evacuation one year ago, Rauf says he felt compelled to go back to Afghanistan. The new Taliban rulers arrested him and imprisoned him for 105 days. He says he was held in a dark basement and went on a hunger strike.

RAUF: Men wielding pipes came down, and they beat me until they were tired so that I would break my hunger strike. But I did not break my hunger strike. After that, they gave us everything we asked for, including food and blankets. But that was about Day 45.

FADEL: The Biden administration negotiated his freedom, and he returned to his mission of helping Afghans leave.

RAUF: So there's very few flights leaving. You cannot get all of these people out before the Taliban targets them and the Taliban executes them.

FADEL: And he's frustrated by the continued delays.

RAUF: I'm really angry because, you know, we're a year down the road, and nothing has changed. The U.S. government is doing absolutely nothing about it. They're doing the bare minimum. Two nights ago, I came back from UAE. There is thousands of people stranded in detention center. These were the people that were evacuated to Abu Dhabi by the U.S. government, by other private organizations. There's thousands of Afghans who are stuck there.

INSKEEP: Rauf argues this is a national security issue and that the United States should be seen as keeping its word. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.