DENVER — While more than 122,000 people of various legal statuses have been flown out of Afghanistan amid the troop withdrawal deadline, many who served the United States within the last twenty years are still stuck there fearing for their lives.
Patrick Allen, a retired Army Special Forces colonel who lives in Colorado, has been trying to help some of those Afghan nationals.
"I don't want to overly encourage them, but I do want to give them hope," Allen said.
Allen worked with eight women who were teachers at an orphanage in Afghanistan during his service in 2009.
"They worked very closely with myself and my fellow soldiers to make sure we were safe when we were at the school, at the orphanage. So, we developed a bond, and I'm going to honor that bond," he said.
Allen filled out their Special Immigrant Visas shortly following President Joe Biden's announcement that the U.S. would be ending the war in August.
"With their families, there's probably a total of 17 of them," Allen said. "I would like to have them here. Plus, I consider them kind of family."
Orchestrating their escape became difficult leading up to the deadline for troop withdrawals.
"They were optimistic at first that they could fly out on U.S. aircraft, but the Taliban had such a gauntlet set up that there was no way they could get through to the airport," Allen said.
Under Taliban rule, they hide for their lives.
"They are Shia in a Suni environment, so they are hiding in place and hoping that they don't get pulled out and executed, and also for working with the U.S. military," Allen said.
Adil, a former interpreter for the U.S. who asked to use a pseudonym for fear of retaliation, has been hiding in his room in Kabul. He said it's been about three weeks since he's seen daylight.
"My food is coming to me in this room. I'm not meeting people. Even [when] our relatives come to my home, my family do not tell them that 'Adil is here'," he said.
While serving the U.S., Adil says he trained Afghan forces how to fight the Taliban. Now, it's Taliban country, and he believes his service is a death certificate in the making.
"If the Taliban finds me, definitely first, they will torture me because they will enjoy — that's because of what we have done. Then, they will kill us," Adil said.
But, as Allen points out, there's still a chance to make it out.
"It's not over. We have an embassy established at Doha and they are processing visas. So, it's not over, we just had a slow down in this," Allen said.
How long that slow down will be isn't clear, but one thing may be: The narrative for the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan may not always be described as a success while the people that served our government are now fearing for their lives.