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First Person: Afghan Translator Reflects On The Collapse Of The Afghan Military

A man holds a newspaper displaying front page news about Afghanistan, at a stall in Islamabad on August 16. (Aamir Qureshi/AFP/Getty Images)
A man holds a newspaper displaying front page news about Afghanistan, at a stall in Islamabad on August 16. (Aamir Qureshi/AFP/Getty Images)

Ali Rasouly spent four years working with the United States Marines to help rebuild his country. In the latest First Person diary, he shares his thoughts on the collapse of the Afghan military.

“They hate us, and that’s unbelievable. That right now, everything’s under their control,” Rasouly says. “They can easily kill 1,000 people in a day and they don’t care.”

Rasouly still has family still in Afghanistan. And he’s deeply worried about them because they are Hazaras, an ethnic and religious minority that the Taliban have violently persecuted in the past.

Ali Rasouly now lives in San Diego. But between 2008 and 2012, he worked as an interpreter for the United States Marines in Afghanistan. In 2017, he was approved for a special immigrant visa, and that’s how he ended up in California.

And now, as he is watching Afghanistan as it fell to the Taliban so rapidly in the past month, and especially this past week, Ali talked to us about the heartbreak he’s feeling:


ALI RASOULY: It was really dangerous and we were actually fighting inside the city of Herat. But the thing was, I was living there at the same time. And for many years, my parents even didn’t know that I was working as an interpreter and working with Marines. So I was like, OK, I’m working in an office. There was a lot of work. I have to stay back there even late night, because it’s not secure. I have to stay back there.

… I always had to change the tracks using a different route, changing the time. So for those 10 years, I was living like that. A low profile. My wife, yes, of course she know. And she tried to stop me sometimes. Because sometimes we had a lot of casualties in a lot of operations. So sometimes, because I couldn’t keep it in my mind’s eye, I was so sad sometimes. So she could figure that something happened.

So she recommended me many times to to leave, find another job. But I said, No, I’m going to go keep doing this. I was proud of working with them. That’s what I can say. So we were fighting to save people. I love working with them because I could see the result. I could see that, OK, for example, one part of the country is under the control of Taliban. But as a result of our work, we could  release those people from [the Taliban] and the people were happy.

So President Biden said that Afghans did not have the [will] to fight against the Taliban.

[Tape] PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: We gave them every chance to determine their own future. We could not provide them with the will to fight for that future. 

That is wrong, that is totally wrong. I reject that. But my question is, did the U.S. government … really want to find and remove Taliban or not? It wasn’t only our fight, it wasn’t only Afghans fight. It was U.S. fight as well. So he says that the Afghan government has that capability, has their weapon. They have the equipment, they have the trained soldiers.

And that’s the same about the U.S. government. Why U.S. government didn’t have that feeling to kill or to remove Taliban? So I have my siblings, two sisters, one brother there. They’re married, and we are like kind of close in that same area and everyone knows that they are my siblings. And it’s not only about me, it’s about my friends, like my wife’s parents, siblings.

And I talked in the past couple of weeks, I was talking to a lot of people here in California, in Texas, in Virginia. All of us have families back there. And we are helpless. We can’t help them and they are so afraid. So they are in danger and nobody is helping them now. I can talk a lot, but I don’t see any point. Now, ever since under their control, the U.S. government just walk away. Saying, OK, I don’t care.

In this diary … we hear from:

ALI RASOULY, he worked as an interpreter for the United States Marines in Afghanistan from 2008 to 2012. He lives in San Diego, California.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

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