PHOENIX - In August, we reported on an Afghan interpreter who called on President Joe Biden to get him out of Afghanistan, as he was hiding from the Taliban. Almost two months later, we are learning that the interpreter is now safe, partially thanks to some Arizona military members he worked alongside.
Interpreter once helped keep group of U.S. Senators safe
When we first reported on the story, the interpreter was only identified as ‘Mohammad’ for safety reasons. At the time, he was still in Afghanistan, and could become what his Arizona friends call a ‘trophy.' Now that he is in safe territory, we have learned that Mohammad's full name is Mohammad Aman Khalili,
Mohammad's initial request came more than a decade after he helped rescue President Biden, who was a Senator at the time, during a blizzard.
"To leave an American interpreter in Afghanistan is a death sentence," said Cpt. Dennis Chamberlain (Ret.), who was with the Arizona National Guard's 1st Battalion, 158th Infantry Regiment, back in August.
13 years ago, Sens. Biden, John Kerry and Chuck Hagel were stranded in a remote valley of Afghanistan. They were on board two helicopters forced to land in a snowstorm. Eventually, Chamberlain and his platoon made the trek to rescue the Senators.
To this day, Chamberlain remembers how Mohammed helped them.
"Two Black Hawk helicopters sitting on the mountain in Afghanistan would draw a certain amount of attention. He was key in communicating our military mission to the local nationals away from our security perimeter and away from the VIP helicopters," Chamberlain said.
While Mohammed stood with other Afghan soldiers on one side of the helicopters, the 82nd Airborne protected the other side. 30 hours in the freezing temperatures passed until the U.S. military got the helicopters back in the air.
Arizonans helped get Mohammad to safety
For the past six weeks, Chamberlain helped coordinate an effort to make sure his old ally was safe.
"We had to get him out. We were up late at night talking to a multitude of people, seeing if they could really help him out, someone who could actually get him out of there," Chamberlain recalled.
They worked with the Human First Coalition, a group helping people out of the country. Since Mohammad would have been a marked man if people knew about his association with the President, secrecy was key.
"Even a lot of the people on the ground, my team who was transporting him, didn't know who he was," said Safi Rauf, founder of the Human First Coalition. "The people in the safe houses he was staying didn't know who he was, he was just another person."
It took more than 24 hours of ground transportation, dodging Taliban checkpoints, until Mohammad was able to reach the border to get into Pakistan. From there, he was taken to a military base to safety.
This story was reported on from Phoenix, Arizona.
- Who is the last U.S. soldier to leave Afghanistan?
- US airstrike kills 2 Islamic State members following deadly Kabul airport attack
- Ramp ceremony held for 13 US troops killed in Afghanistan attack
Tune in to FOX 10 Phoenix for the latest news