“I’m ranging from zero to construct up my life,” Khohestani advised CNN, “however now I’ve an enormous subject and massive issues in Afghanistan.”
In mid-August, he and different pilots from the Particular Mission Wing flew their plane throughout the border to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in a determined bid to maintain among the Afghan navy’s most superior tools from falling into Taliban fingers and thereby enabling their very own de facto air pressure.
Many fled the nation with out their households through the audacious transfer. They’ve waited for the US to evacuate their family members ever since.
“All these households, they’re caught in Kabul,” Khohestani advised CNN.
Khohestani, a colonel within the Particular Mission Wing with greater than 3,000 hours in Russian Mi-17 helicopters and 200 hours in Black Hawks, advised his household to attend exterior Kabul Worldwide Airport because the US and its allies evacuated hundreds of Afghans in late August.
He feels a way of disgrace that he left his household behind.
“Now everyone seems to be transferring round, altering homes, altering flats,” Khohestani stated. His spouse and youngsters have waited in Afghanistan ever since he left, afraid of the Taliban coming after them.
However these evacuation flights, carried out by Qatar Airways and different overseas business airways, have slowed to a trickle because the US works out what kind of diplomatic relationship it’s going to have with the Taliban.
State Division press secretary Ned Worth stated final week that the US effort to evacuate Afghans in danger, in addition to Americans and inexperienced card holders, is ongoing.
“We have now continued as properly to do what we are able to to assist Afghans to whom now we have a particular dedication, and that features those that fall inside the class of the [Special Immigrant Visas],” stated Worth. “We’re options to processing for the bigger cohort inside this class figuring out that, regardless that our presence on the bottom in Afghanistan isn’t any extra, we’re doing what we are able to from different posts and inventive options to proceed our efforts to securely relocate these people who want to depart the nation.”
Regardless of the Taliban’s guarantees of amnesty, Khohestani fears retribution towards his family members.
Researchers on the group stated the Taliban “have additionally focused relations of former safety pressure members.”
The Taliban’s deputy spokesman Bilal Karimi rejected the report whereas acknowledging that “some former forces had been harmed.”
“These are folks which can be critically at risk and distressed, and their prolonged household is all susceptible as properly,” stated retired Inexperienced Beret Drew Horn, who deployed to Afghanistan thrice, working with Afghan commandos.
“They saved my life and lots of of my males’s lives on a number of events and we developed a really robust bond with them,” Horn advised CNN. “They had been there for us in our hour of want, and we have to do the identical for them.”
For Horn and different US veterans of twenty years of combating in Afghanistan, the mission is very private.
“We went into among the most harmful areas in Afghanistan and took out in all probability among the most harmful enemy targets, and so they had been proper there with us,” Horn stated.
He is amongst a gaggle of People, a lot of them veterans with a number of deployments to Afghanistan, who’ve been looking for a manner to assist the Afghan pilots carry their households to the US.
“Belal saved my life thrice in fight, actually,” Peter Quinn, a Military veteran who deployed to Afghanistan and fought with the Particular Mission Wing, advised CNN. “It wasn’t simply Belal. It was the whole SMW. They protected me and safeguarded us every day.”
Quinn has labored to get visas for the households of Khohestani and different Afghan navy pilots to depart Afghanistan, by means of Pakistan, India and different places to allow them to start making their technique to the USA. The method just isn’t straightforward, with no direct flights and a screening and vetting course of for every Afghan refugee.
Quinn is undeterred.
“These guys are heroes,” stated Quinn. “They have to be welcomed warmly.”
“We had been counterparts. We had been doing the missions collectively,” stated Hashmatullah Ahmadzai, additionally a helicopter pilot with the Afghan Particular Mission Wing. “SMW was type of a part of the US armed forces.”
Ahmadzai hasn’t seen his spouse and son in additional than 4 months.
The toughest time was proper after he arrived in Uzbekistan, he stated, as a result of the authorities there took his mobile phone. He would wait hours for a three-minute name together with his household. Now residing in California, he’s hundreds of miles farther away, however he can talk with them on messaging companies.
For their very own security, Ahmadzai stated his household is consistently on the transfer. His father and brothers had been additionally within the Afghan navy combating the Taliban, which he fears makes them a goal for retribution.
“We misplaced all the things. Our job, our home, our cash. We begin right here from zero,” Ahmadzai stated.
“America is an effective nation, a great economic system, good work, but it surely nonetheless takes time to make your life higher.”
A greater life for the Particular Mission Wing pilots begins with a household reunion, however they have to take care of two unsure futures — their very own in a brand new nation and the way forward for their households in a rustic to which they will not return.