An Afghan Interpreter Helped The U.S. Military. He's Still Waiting For A Visa The Afghan interpreter still suffers from injuries he got during the nine years he worked with the U.S. His children are terrified: "The bad guy is going to come and is going to kill you, then us."

An Afghan Interpreter Who Helped The U.S. Military Is Now A Target For The Taliban

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Around the time that Afghanistan's president was fleeing the country yesterday, we placed a call to Kabul. We reached an Afghan man. Though, it took several tries to get through. It was the sort of day when many people in Kabul would be calling someone desperately and overloading the network. The Afghan asked us not to use his full name for his security. Though, we could use the nickname the U.S. Army once gave him. He was a U.S. interpreter for years.

REGGIE: And the U.S. military know me by the name of Reggie (ph).

INSKEEP: Reggie. I just heard a dog in the background. I guess you're at your home. Your family is there?

REGGIE: Yes, sir. I'm standing right in front of my house door because inside, it's - the network, it's a little bit broken down.

INSKEEP: Understood. What have the last few days been like for you in Kabul?

REGGIE: Sir, last couple days was - no one was understanding what's exactly going on. There were rumor that Taliban are coming, taking over Kabul. But no one was expecting that could happen, actually, today. No one was aware of this because from the morning until noon, there wasn't anything. There was no rumor. But it happened today around 1 up to 3 o'clock.

INSKEEP: Reggie did not feel safe going out for a walk. So he followed developments from his roof. The first sign of change in his neighborhood was when the police abandoned the neighborhood station.

REGGIE: There is no government official, no military. They left. And then after 30 minutes, Taliban came and pretty easily entered. And people gathered around them, were watching what's exactly going on. And then they wanted to push the people away from there. So they started firing into the air so they can scare the people and go away. And then later on, after taking over the station, they start patrolling on the government vehicle and talking to the people and telling them that, don't worry, we are here for your protection. And we're not going to arm any one of you guys. And we are here for the enemy of this country. So they were actually giving the people time in order to be relaxed. But still, no one can trust on their words. They can do anything any moment, whatever they want.

INSKEEP: Do you think that you could be a target for the Taliban?

REGGIE: Yes, sir, because currently, from last week, I'm trying to get a visa from any country. But I'm not able to get it because I'm currently in high risk because we, the linguists - linguists or the translator or whatever you call it, sir - we were actually the eyes of America. And that was the name given by the Taliban to us, that they were the one guiding these guys. So this is the rumor - they can forgive anyone and government officials. And they can compromise with them. But they wouldn't compromise especially with interpreters, because they said we have lost a lot of our Taliban friends because of these linguists. And they were the ones telling the Americans, you know, what to do, what not to do, how to find the bad guys.

So currently, sir, to be honest with you, I'm standing right in front of my house. But I'm not feeling safe. There isn't a single moment that I can be feeling relaxed. And I'm very - I've been known by the insurgents, not just physically. Also, there are a lot of pictures of mine, you know, hanging and doing the translating, you know, in the shuras, in meetings with elders. There are my pictures that are posted in Google, currently.

INSKEEP: Oh, because you were with senior U.S. military officers?

REGGIE: Yes, sir - and especially those interpreter who are serving the key commander. So they were not covering their face because we wanted the people of Afghanistan, you know, to feel free to talk with us. And today, I received a couple calls from my relatives and from my buddies that told me to stick in home, don't get out, because no one knows what's going to happen. And don't trust a single word of the insurgents because they say one thing, they can do anything to harm you.

INSKEEP: When did you work for the United States, in what years?

REGGIE: Sir, I started working as a linguist from 2005 until end of 2013. I was directly serving as a linguist with the U.S. military. After that, I got released from the company. Then I start working indirectly the U.S. military. Then I started working with a British company. They used to supply the fuel for the U.S. military in southern Kandahar. And I was operation manager over there, sir.

INSKEEP: So you've been all over the country then as part of the U.S. mission?

REGGIE: Yes, sir. We - I got hit by two suicide bomber. And we lost very high-ranking Americans over there. We lost one of the - I lost my brigade commander. His name was Kevin Griffin (ph). I was serving him directly. We lost him in that attack. And I got hit with 23 shrapnels. And we lost one Air Force major. And we also got - lost one of the political adviser in that attack.

INSKEEP: Did you say that you had 23 pieces of shrapnel in you from that attack?

REGGIE: I get hit, 23 shrapnels from my left side. And my left eardrum still on suffering. In that attack, sir, I got hit 23 shrapnels. And I was under the recovery for six months. But still, I'm suffering from my headache, from my left ear. I'm not able to hear properly. When I hear something bad or someone yell on me, I totally - I lose my control. And I get mad pretty quickly.

INSKEEP: I understand.

REGGIE: And since these insurgents have arrived, I cannot sleep for one minute. I cannot sleep for a single minute because there is always threat and scariness in my heart, sir. Not just me - because of my service, sir, my family is suffering right now. My family - my kids are telling me that bad guy are going to come and are going to kill you first, Dad, then us. And I keep telling them, no. There are a lot of good friends that I have in America, have met a lot of good friends. And they're going to take us, baby, you don't have to worry about it.

INSKEEP: The man known as Reggie says he's been trying to leave Afghanistan for a decade. He told us a story that in the chaos right now is hard to independently verify. But he sent documents to back it up. He'd been wounded in combat, serving the U.S. and even received an award resembling the Army's Purple Heart but was denied a visa. He failed a polygraph test, which he blames on the physical symptoms of post-traumatic stress. He'd also received a phone call once from a cousin suspected of ties to the Taliban. In recent years, Reggie applied for a visa again. The U.S. is admitting some former interpreters. But as Kabul fell yesterday, he did not yet have final approval.

REGGIE: I'm waiting for my medical. It's in last stage, you know, for the medical, currently.

INSKEEP: In the last stage, waiting for the medical, you have to show that you don't have some health issue that you would bring to the United States, is that right?

REGGIE: Yes, sir. I - yes, sir. When you are clear, and then they stamp your visa. And then you're good to go. But I'm still waiting from last 1 1/2 year, sir.

INSKEEP: What do you hope for now?

REGGIE: Currently, I'm still hoping there are good people that I have served in the U.S. military, still know the way I have served them and they know my sacrifices. And I believe they will help me. I'm not a bad guy, sir.

INSKEEP: Well, thank you very much. I hope that you're able to be as safe as you can. And perhaps we'll check in again with you on some days and see if anything has changed.

(SOUNDBITE OF TRISTEZA'S "BALABARISTAS")

REGGIE: Thank you so much, sir. Thank you for asking. And I really appreciate that, you know, you guys being over there but still thinking about us and thinking about your old - their old friend. And I really appreciate this. And thank you so much for asking, sir.

INSKEEP: Best wishes to you and your family. Have a good evening now.

REGGIE: Thank you, sir.

INSKEEP: All right. Bye, bye.

REGGIE: You too. Bye, bye.

(SOUNDBITE OF TRISTEZA'S "BALABARISTAS")

INSKEEP: The Afghan known to Americans as Reggie, whose full name we withhold for his safety, spoke with us yesterday after the Taliban entered Kabul.

(SOUNDBITE OF TRISTEZA'S "BALABARISTAS")

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