Allies Welcome: Emal’s Story
September 22, 2021
Throughout the course of the war in Afghanistan, Afghan citizens have relocated to the United States after providing valuable services to our service members, contractors, and country.
The duties and responsibilities that Afghan citizens have carried out span the spectrum— from drivers, to translators and interpreters, to soldiers— these citizens voluntarily supported the United States in order to protect their country and their fellow citizens from the ever-present threat of Taliban rule.
While providing support to the United States, these allies were in constant danger. The IED’s that we heard so much about in the last two decades were not just meant for American troops— they were meant for Allied Forces too. Taliban checkpoints were often set up on routes between military installations and the communities where allies lived. If they were stopped on their way home from their work assisting Americans, they were pulled out of their vehicles and beaten in the streets or worse.
Allied Afghans’ families were also at risk. The Taliban would attack their homes without a second thought even when they killed or maimed women, children, or elderly family members.
These are the brutal stories shared by Afghan refugees to us as we welcome them to America—Stories like Emal’s.
Emal worked as an interpreter for the U.S. military for years before immigrating to America. While his story does not include the terror and uncertainty that came with the recent evacuation, like Naim, Emal’s story gives us a deeper insight into the close relationship formed between interpreters and the units/advisors they served with.
To keep his story as true to his words as possible, we transcribed his words as they were shared with us aside from the omission of sensitive details, such as locations, dates, or names that might jeopardize the safety of Emal or his family.
Interview with Emal
Soldiers’ Angels: Without sharing sensitive details, tell us about your job with the US military.
Emal: I start over a decade ago working for the contractors in Afghanistan. It was my first ever job with the US. I was like, used to be, English teacher for the children in Kabul, but my whole family was working for the contractor, like my uncles, my brothers, my cousins, and then I joined them. I was soldier for three months at first and then there was a place in interpreter’s job and then I forwarded to the interpreter’s job. I loved my job. And I have, I would say I have hundreds of stories of my American advisors, we were working very close with them.
The honesty I saw in them, the hardworking for our people and for Afghanistan, like there’s no words that we can appreciate them. And I still have contact with them, most of them. And then this evacuation— I was contacting with one of my advisors in Washington, he was working in DC, and like he was working hard. Like I would say he was working more than 15 hours a day to bring all these people out here from Afghanistan. So yeah, there’s a bunch of stories and there’s nothing appreciated by words. But we really feel them.
Soldiers’ Angels: Is there one story, in particular, you would feel comfortable sharing?
Emal: Yes. It’s very important story for me. Back in 2014, while there was some political instability between the US and Afghan government, while Karzai had last days at Presidential Palace, so he was a kinda, like there were some problems between Karzai and American government. And there was this help with Afghan Army from US side. One of my friends, currently he’s somewhere in Afghanistan hiding, he’s in great danger now, he called me and he was surrounded by Taliban in Sabari district Khost, which was very dangerous district, Sabari is known for dangerousness in Afghanistan. And my friend, he was working for Afghan National Director of Security and he told me that he couldn’t get help from Afghan government, like from Afghan Army, and there were almost 200 people surrounded by Taliban and if I don’t help them, they were going to die all.
So I told him, first of all, you’re not our unit. And second of all, that now the situation is not good, I’ll ask my advisors, I know they are very helpful people, they are very honest people every one, but there will be some problem with helping you. So I called one of my advisors, I said one of my friends is in a tough situation and he’s going to die in the next few hours if we cannot help him. And then, we called another, like there was Army as well. The US Air Force and some stuff were there.
And he said because it’s you, because he’s your friend, you feel bad for him, we’re going to help him out. And within 10 minutes, there was two jets and it was like they were in the air already. And they send that in ten minutes and then they flew like they show force, because it was very hard for bombardment ‘cause it was like messed up, they were very close to each other, the Taliban and Afghanistan. And then like after 20 minutes, my friend called me that we are in safe place, and I cannot forget that. ‘Cause they help me, not just me like, they saved 200 lives.
So that was a big story, like there’s a bunch, but this is the big story I never forget.
Soldiers’ Angels: Go Air Force!
Emal: Yeah, yeah! The Air Force. We really appreciate Air Force. And that, like every day, but on that day I really say, this mean a lot to me.
Soldiers’ Angels: That’s amazing. We’re happy to hear that—happy to hear that they were all safe.
Emal: Yeah, yeah. They were all safe. And I have some bad memories— like I lost my brother, I lost my uncle, I lost like five family members in this war. And now we’re going back to 2001.
Soldiers’ Angels: Yes. Going backwards has been very hard on everybody.
Emal: And, this is from my side, I really appreciate you guys [Soldiers’ Angels] because again I have no words to appreciate you guys. You’re hard-working and you’re helping our people. Like they are very mentally stressed now ‘cause of what happened there. And since they are taking care good here and people are supporting them, people are welcoming them, that’s the main thing for us and that’s the only thing that relax our brain and relax our thinking that we are in a safe place now. We really appreciate everybody.
Soldiers’ Angels: Absolutely. It is our honor to help in whatever way we can.
Emal: I really appreciate those who are helping and donating stuff. I know some of the people they don’t know how hard it was, like how American troops were doing it, how Afghan Allies were helping. Like Afghan Allies were 24/7 in danger. ‘Cause if you were in the base, you were in combat situation. You were going out on missions, there were IED’s, there were ambushes, attacks. While you were being home, on the drive there was Taliban putting checkpoints there.
During one year, we were going through Sabarri district, the very dangerous district in Afghanistan, in one month we lost 25 people on the route. Cause while they were going home on leave, Taliban were putting checkpoints for them and then they were attacking them.
Soldiers’ Angels: And these were all Allied Forces, right?
Emal: Yeah, yes. All the Allies were in danger 24/7. Now they are like every second of the day. So, our district, we lost like 4,000 people, like the soldiers. Just our district. So like, for all of Afghanistan. Yeah, it was like Allies were in tough situation all the time. There’s a bunch of stories of it. Attacking our houses, blowing up our gateways, so it was like all these problems we were facing.
Emal (continued): And I will say like the only thing I will just add if you want to add this, nobody would easily give up their country. Like, if you grew up in America if I forcibly tell you to get out of your country, and your country is all gone— it’s very hard. Like you cannot even think about it. Everything is gone, like, everything is ruined, no streets, nothing. Your family is in danger and you’re going out of your house in a situation like you’re just thinking of your kids, like their lives. So it’s very tough. It’s very hard. And because of that, that is the reason for us that we work with U.S. Army, that was the only reason. There was like, there was no other reason but only reason, we were protecting our country and we were side of the U.S. Army. That was the only reason.
< A big sigh from everyone in the room due to the weight of the conversation.>
Soldiers’ Angels: It’s a lot. I mean, it’s a lot for us to hear these stories, so we can only imagine for you to have those memories and to go through that. So thank you, thank you for what you’ve done in the past 20 years. It’s been a long time.