CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — An Army veteran is doing all he can to get his interpreter out of Kabul as the United States begins drawing down troops.
Chris McClanathan served with Romal in 2011 while his unit was in northern Afghanistan.
“He’s my brother as much as anyone else I serve with,” explained McClanahan.
Romal is one of the thousands of Afghans attempting to escape the country as the Taliban takes over. McClanathan said Romal, his wife and mother have attempted to reach the airport, but now are sheltering in place awaiting word from the U.S. to go to the airport.
“They’re going to you know, if they catch him, they’re gonna kill him. There’s no way to mince words about it. Really, his exact words were they’re gonna cut my head off,” McClanathan said.
At least two explosions went off Thursday outside the Kabul airport where thousands of people have gathered to try to flee the country in a massive airlift evacuation since the Taliban seized power earlier this month. Pentagon officials have not confirmed the number killed or injured, but said there were U.S. citizens and refugee causalities.
Some of those most at risk for Taliban violence are those that helped U.S. forces remove the Taliban from power in the early days of the Afghanistan war.
McClanathan said Romal and other translators played a vital role that made their work possible.
“It’s just so much more than just like, oh, translate this translate that. You go overseas, and you don’t know anything about the culture, they give you a little class, but that doesn’t really cover anything. So (the translators) kind of have us, navigate the waters of culture and making sure that we’re respecting them as much as they’re respecting us,” McClanathan said.
He added, “just kind of the lifeblood of that situation, making sure there’s no miscommunications, because when people have bad feelings toward us, wrong or not, that’s when lives are in danger.”
Translators and their families qualify for a Special Immigrant Visa from the U.S. State Department which has helped expedite their evacuation. President Joe Biden has repeatedly committed to helping as many Afghans as possible who assisted the U.S.
There are still concerns that translators will get left behind amid the chaotic evacuation and suffer at the hands of the Taliban.
McClanathan said despite the difficulty, he’s not giving up on saving Romal and his family.
“Unless they tell me something terrible has happened. I’m going to keep doing what I can do. But it’s a shame that I have to do this. Our administration should be doing this,” McClanathan stated.