Saturday, November 27

‘Give us a little hope’ – former NZDF interpreter for the government

An Afghan interpreter who worked for the New Zealand Defense Forces says 36 of his colleagues, who were promised a seat on an evacuation flight, are now feeling desperate after the government withdrew its troops over security risks.

An RNZAF C130 landed in Kabul and safely evacuated several New Zealanders and Australians.

An NZDF evacuation flight in Kabul.
Photo: Supplied / New Zealand Defense Force

Basir Ahmad worked for the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) and has been in contact with the government to help others obtain visas and leave.

More than 500 people in Afghanistan eligible to come to New Zealand have been left to their own devices after a bombing at the Kabul airport ended more evacuation flights by the New Zealand Defense Forces.

Ahmad said he understood the security reasons, but knowing that there would be no more flights was devastating.

“Imagine that you are on an island and there are many snakes and things like that … and there is a flight that is going to save you.

“But it just goes away, and the only thing that remains is that you are very disappointed. You are disappointed. We were all disappointed.”

He said there were delays in obtaining some of the team’s visas, and the day they were finalized was the day of the explosion.

He said that if New Zealand officials had been quicker to finalize the visas, his group would have been cleared to get on one of the earlier planes …

“I was making phone calls every day and I was talking to MFAT officials about the processing time for this visa. I said if I process this [normally] it won’t happen in time.

“But they didn’t listen to me and the security situation got worse and now they suddenly left Afghanistan.”

Ahmad had left his home and stayed in a hotel for two weeks. That time would soon be over and he didn’t know what to do next.

“Some of the members of our group, they were staying in a hotel, they just finished everything. And they just didn’t get anything because they planned everything based on the evacuation.

“And they said, okay, we’ll be evacuated and … this is good enough for now, but now everything is changing.”

He said he would continue to contact MFAT but the situation seemed increasingly desperate every day.

“They say they are working on a plan, but we don’t know what it means, working on a plan? Is it a quick plan? How long does it take?

“The members of our group, they have run out of everything, they have no money, their shelter is not in good condition … our financial situation is simply zero. Everything is wrong.

He said the other members of the groups were growing desperate.

“I get a lot of phone calls. They call me. Do you have any news? What’s the plan? When are we going to be evacuated … All the questions I don’t have the answer to.”

“While I’m talking to you, I have six calls.”

He said that while New Zealand personnel were no longer on the ground, perhaps they could seek help from other Western forces still in Afghanistan.

“So if they can talk to these guys there, we could be evacuated. You know, maybe today.”

“If there is some way, some quick way for the government to help us then give us some hope. You know, right now, we are very desperate.”

He said the Taliban were actively searching for people who had helped New Zealand and that the group was in grave danger.

The government has said it will not give up helping those stranded in Afghanistan, but it was unclear what its plan was.

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