Journalist’s Desperate Attempt to Save Translator from Taliban Killing

Every morning since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan following the US withdrawal, journalist Toby Harnden has been waiting for a call or WhatsApp message from “R”, a translator he worked with “First victim: the untold story of the secret CIA mission to avenge 9/11– his new book on the early days of the 2001 US invasion.

“It’s a proof of life check,” Harnden told the Post. “Part of my fear is that he will fall and I won’t hear from him anymore because God knows what happened. It is constant tension.

Harnden – who worked for The Telegraph and The Sunday Times – has now written two books on Afghanistan and has spent a lot of time in the war-torn country. While many of his associates fled to Turkey and Uzbekistan, R contacted him last weekend, desperately seeking help.

Journalist Toby Harnden tried to get his translator “R” out of Afghanistan.
Rahmat Gul / AP

“He said, ‘I’m in Kabul and I need to get out,’” Harnden said.

A British-born American citizen based in Northern Virginia, Harnden applied for a Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) for Afghans, but received only an automated response. He does not have a file number for R.

“As far as I know, his case has not even been reviewed. Right now it’s like he’s at the DMV and standing in line while waiting [a] number to call… In the meantime, you have this desperate emergency, ”Harnden said.

The frustrated freelance journalist took to Twitter on Sunday, highlighting The heartbreaking situation of R to flee his homeland.

“If he is left behind, the Taliban will kill him,” he wrote.

Every day, R, 29, risks his life by going to Kabul airport. He carries photos of the couple and a visa application, hoping to approach an American soldier so Harnden can vouch for him over the phone. R saw people being trampled to death and his own foot opened in the crowd.

Harnden shared the gruesome image of R’s injury on social media.

Every day, R, 29, risks his life by going to Kabul airport. He carries photos of the couple and a visa application, hoping to approach an American soldier so Harnden can vouch for him over the phone.
Toby Harnden / Twitter

“He had his foot sewn up and said everything was fine,” Harnden said. “These people are tough. He was about 9 years old when the Taliban were overthrown and ousted in 2001. He lived through the Taliban and the civil war, so we had our feet chopped off [is nothing in comparison]. ”

But just carrying the papers is a dangerous act.

“The terror falls into the hands of the Taliban and has your own death warrant in your pocket,” Harnden said.

Harnden first met R in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, while he was researching for his book, which will be released on September 7.

“He had a journalist mentality, which a lot of translators don’t have,” Harnden said, noting that R had tracked down two doctors who were critical sources for his book.

“I’ve been trying for weeks to get these guys and he just finds them right. He is a well educated young Afghan who learned his English through cinema. He’s the kind of guy, if he comes to America, he’s going to be successful. He will bring something.

Taliban fighters pose for a photo in Kabul, Afghanistan.
R continues to report for Harden, updating him with images and videos of the situation in Afghanistan.

Even though he faces death, R has regularly updated Harnden, including uploading a video of the Taliban burning down an amusement park. “He always pays and we trade leads. Biden promised to get everyone out. It is a great promise and I hope he will keep it.

But Harnden leaves nothing to chance.

Since sharing R’s heartbreaking story, he has been contacted by many people with private organizations trying to facilitate evacuations out of the chaotic danger zone.

“It’s a depressing time, but there has been goodwill towards the Afghans and it’s encouraging. I have given his contact details to a lot of people, but he is only one of thousands and time is running out, ”said Harnden, who remains confident he will soon be able to welcome his friend to our safe shores.

“I hope I can meet him in Dulles or any airport in the United States. He is a survivor and he will make the most of this opportunity.

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