A former US Army captain who served in the war in Afghanistan fears there may be only hours to avert an arrest and lobbies for the rescue of his former interpreter.
Scott Henkel served as Army Chief of the Alpha Team during Operation Enduring Freedom in 2006 and 2007.
In an interview, Henkel said he spent “all of” his time in Afghanistan with his interpreter whom he called “Kevin”, his nickname, to protect his identity. Henkel also declined to specify the province where the two worked together.
Now 46, Henkel lives in Colorado and works as a project manager for a cybersecurity company.
“I relied on my interpreter to help me navigate the culture, navigate the protocols, and navigate the language barrier,” he said.
One of “Kevin’s most valued contributions,” Henkel said, was his ability to recognize local leaders associated with the Taliban.
“He could see that a reign of fear was being carried out,” Henkel said in one town.
He also recalled a case where “we were actually hit in a valley and we had to call in air support to save us because we had hundreds of Taliban in these positions in these hills. Kevin was the one who told us beforehand, “Hey, this would going to happen.”
Based on Henkel’s experience with the Taliban, he believes the group will target those who first worked with foreigners.
“They have a list of all the interpreters who have ever worked for NATO,” he said. “The only punishment acceptable to them is death. And that includes his (Kevin’s) family.”
The Taliban, for their part, said in a June statement that former interpreters were not at risk but “must repent”.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby has said the United States will try to evacuate as many Afghan interpreters as possible.
When Henkel learned of the US’s plans to pull out after a 20-year engagement in Afghanistan, he was “furious.”
Having led combat operations himself, “an exfil-exfil plan usually means an exfiltration plan…I don’t see it happening right now,” a situation Henkel described as “unacceptable” for the approximately 18,000 Afghan translators and their families.
According to Henkel, “Kevin” and his family were turned away by US troops at local airports while trying to escape, despite pressure to secure his departure from US Representatives Joe Neguse and veteran Jason Crow, both Democrats from Colorado.
Crow’s office confirmed his plea over the phone. Neguse was not immediately available for comment.
“It’s pure chaos,” Henkel said, “Kevin” told him Friday morning via text.
The veteran and his interpreter communicate via web chat as always.
“We even talked about it, one day wouldn’t it be great if our kids could play in a playground together. And we could grow old side by side,” he said.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NewsMadura staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.)