After 20 years of war, the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan ended in chaos at an airfield in Kabul. Thousands of Afghans who worked with the American soldiers as translators, interpreters and partners made it onto U.S. military planes. But despite the decades-long efforts of veterans, lawmakers and senior leaders in the military, even more were left behind. Now they live in hiding from the Taliban.
From Lawfare and Goat Rodeo, this is Allies. A podcast about America’s eyes and ears over 20 years of war in Afghanistan. This show will take you from the frontlines of the war to the halls of Congress to find out: How did this happen?
In order to tell you this story, we need to start at the beginning, just before the U.S. invasion. After 9/11, the CIA set their sights on al-Qaeda’s base in Afghanistan. After a military invasion that fall, people up and down the chain of command learned that in order to fight this war the US needed local partners to help.
In 2003 the US started another war with the military invasion of Iraq. There, soldiers, aid workers, diplomats and politicians saw the threat that local interpreters, translators and partners faced for their work. That’s when Congress created the SIV program for Iraqi interpreters and then recreated it for Afghanistan. But it quickly became clear that this program wasn’t working as intended.
Fred was born and raised in Afghanistan. In 2004 he took a job as an Afghan interpreter. He ended up serving side-by-side with American soldiers for more than 13 years. Fred firmly believed in the US mission and thought that he was helping the Americans help his country. But when the Taliban started targeting him after a mission, Fred started looking for a way out. The SIV program was supposed to help
Matt Zeller deployed to Afghanistan in 2008, where an Afghan interpreter saved his life. Matt Zeller spent years trying to get him resettled in the United States and saw the problems with the SIV program firsthand. Together, they started lobbying to fix it in Washington, DC.
We return to Fred—an Afghan combat interpreter who served with American soldiers for more than 13 years. After years of denials, an ad hoc team of lawyers and veterans tried to push his Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) application through federal bureaucracy. Then, we describe how a new president aimed to bring the SIV program to a screeching halt.
20 years of war and broken bureaucracy culminate during the US withdrawal at the Kabul airport. Thousands of Afghans rush to the tarmac where American forces sort through the crowds. Veterans, advocates and politicians try to get their allies out while the Taliban rapidly takes control of Afghanistan.
You’ll hear first-hand accounts of people fleeing Afghanistan. And how thousands more were left behind to face an uncertain future.