A former US soldier said he had brought at least 30 vulnerable people, including Christians, from Afghanistan across the closed Pakistani border and was whipped by the Taliban for his efforts.
The Afghan native went to Pakistan about a month ago and crossed into Afghanistan illegally to save his family. Relatives hid around Kabul after the Taliban took over, fearing they would be killed for their family connection to an army staff sergeant as well as their own previous work against the extremist group.
“They say in the news that there is no American soldier in Afghanistan,” the former staff sergeant told Fox News. “But I’m here and I will help as long as it takes.”
“I am a proud American soldier,” added the war veteran from Afghanistan, who was discharged after suffering traumatic brain injuries. “I have taken an oath and I will never forget that oath.”
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Fox News gave the veteran and his family anonymity to protect them from the Taliban.
Since returning to Afghanistan, the former soldier has said he has rescued Catholics and other Christians, as well as Hazara minorities, all of whom are Taliban targets.
“It feels good to get them out and rescue them from the Taliban,” the former staff sergeant told Fox News.
He said he helped a family of 10 Afghan Christians escape.
He also helped a couple who had recently converted to Catholicism and were “in danger because of their religion,” the veteran told Fox News. “Everyone in their neighborhood knew about it, and they started sniffing after them.”
He said he and some Afghan nomads were helping them illegally cross the border into Pakistan. The couple eventually fled to a third country.
“On the way back from this area, I was caught by the Taliban and they whipped me on my back,” the former staff sergeant told Fox News. “I think it was only seven times, but had they known I had actually just helped a Catholic family get out, it would have been worse. Far worse.”
HIS WHOLE HIS STORY:
Meanwhile, the Taliban visited one of his family’s safe houses, forcing the family to flee through a back door. His journalist niece was injured during the escape.
“I had no choice but to come here myself after I was told there was an ambush on my family’s house again,” the former staff sergeant told Fox News. “I still have not heard anything from our government regarding any kind of assistance.”
“I asked for help from the US government,” the veteran told Fox News. “I received none.”
But getting his family from the Kabul area to Pakistan was not realistic, the veteran said, noting that the family of six would have to go through about 30 Taliban checkpoints.
After his interview with Fox News, the veteran said he successfully helped his family flee, though not to Pakistan. He also said they have 28 days to secure a passage out of the country they are in, otherwise they will be deported back to Afghanistan and into the hands of the Taliban.
Fox News does not disclose the family’s escape method or where it lives to protect them from possible harm.
‘The fear of that day is still there’
The staff sergeant arrived in the United States from Afghanistan as a teenage refugee a few days before 9/11. He joined the army a few years later after meeting a recruiter and was sent back to Afghanistan to fight in the war.
But his admission put his family in danger. Shortly after the staff sergeant was deployed, the Taliban fired at his family’s home and later fire-bombed, destroying half of it, the veteran said.
Years later, they beat his sister, an Afghan government official, in front of her home. The veteran’s brother came out to help, but the Taliban turned their attack on him.
He’s still limping.
And after the Taliban captured Kabul, fighters walked a neighbor through the veteran’s family home while the family was in hiding, seizing pictures of them, including one of him in his uniform.
The family lived in safe houses for over a month. For a time, the veteran’s niece, who was an outspoken critic of the Taliban before taking over Afghanistan, changed location every night after extremists led her out of her editorial office with weapons, shortly after seizing Kabul.
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“If they find me, they will kill me,” the journalist told Fox News earlier.
The staff sergeant said his friends guarding his family saw two Taliban fighters outside the safe house they were hiding in. The family was quickly led out from behind, but the veteran’s niece was injured in a hurry.
“The injury healed, but the fear from that day is still there,” said the former staff sergeant, noting that she had bruises on her chest and what appeared to be a broken thumb.
The family has faced growing challenges as its time in hiding continued.
“My niece is extremely ill,” the veteran told Fox News. “We have taken five different doctors with her. She gets different types of injections and medication, but she does not get better.”
“She is depressed. She is scared,” he added. “About a week ago she started stuttering… so we called another doctor to come and check her out.”
“She’s in really bad shape right now,” the veteran said.
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And like many others in Afghanistan, the family was running out of provisions.
“And on top of that … they’re low on water, low on food,” the veteran told Fox News. “Even the kids have almost nothing to eat at this point.”
“My friends who keep an eye on her and protect her, they also lack food,” the former staff sergeant added. “Whatever they come up with, they give it to my family.”