Pakistan helps rescue Afghan who once saved Biden’s life

Published October 13, 2021
In this picture taken after the 2008 rescue mission, then US senators Joe Biden, who is now the president, (third from left), John Kerry (extreme right), and Chuck Hagel (extreme left) are seen posing for a photograph. — Photo courtesy Wall Street Journal Twitter/File
In this picture taken after the 2008 rescue mission, then US senators Joe Biden, who is now the president, (third from left), John Kerry (extreme right), and Chuck Hagel (extreme left) are seen posing for a photograph. — Photo courtesy Wall Street Journal Twitter/File

WASHINGTON: Pakistan played a key role in evacuating an interpreter from Afghanistan who had rescued Joe Biden and two other US senators from a snowstorm 13 years ago, diplomatic sources told Dawn on Tuesday.

The Human First Coalition, a US-based NGO run by two Americans of Afghan origin, supervised the evacuation.

“We are grateful to Prime Minister Imran Khan for his continued support of the evacuation,” the coalition told US media outlets on Tuesday.

The statement said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Congressman Jeff Fortenberry, Senator Chris Coon, Director of Task Force Islamabad Mark Terkowski and others worked with the coalition in evacuating Aman Khalili and his family from Afghanistan.

Mr Khalili helped rescue then senator Joe Biden in 2008 after his helicopter was forced to make an emergency landing in a remote Afghan valley because of a snowstorm. Two other senators — Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and John Kerry of Massachusetts – also accompanied Mr. Biden on that fact-finding mission to Afghanistan.

On Aug 31, Mr Khalili sent a message to Mr Biden through the Wall Street Journal, reminding him that he had been left behind in Afghanistan as the last US troops exited the country.

“Hello Mr President: Save me and my family,” he told the WSJ. “Don’t forget me here.”

The Human First Coalition moved Mr Khalili and his family from Mazar-i-Sharif to Kabul and then to Afghanistan’s Helmand province. From there, the Khalili family crossed the border with Pakistan’s support and then moved to Islamabad. A US military fight from Qatar then took them from Islamabad to another safe location.

Diplomatic sources said US officials contacted Pakistan in the early stages of the rescue plan and Islamabad stayed involved during its execution as well, which took only five days.

Published in Dawn, October 13th, 2021

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