Former Afghanistan humanitarian worker: ‘We’re running out of time to get people out’

WASHINGTON — With less than a week left for American citizens and others to be evacuated from Afghanistan before President Biden’s Aug. 31 deadline, there is a scramble to get those still waiting to get out to safety.

It’s not only the military working to help people evacuate – humanitarian groups are also playing a role.

Jeff Le worked for an international development organization in Afghanistan from 2010-2011 and he worked for a human rights group there from 2012-2013.

“Unfortunately, we’re running out of time to get people out,” said Le.

He says the images showing the desperation of people trying to flee Kabul have been heartbreaking and have hit close to home.

“In Kabul itself, it’s devastating to see the hardship that people are feeling,” said Le. “Seeing photos and videos of Taliban flags flying over a hill that I would look at every night before I would go to sleep.”

During both stints in Afghanistan, Le worked alongside local Afghans who helped with things like translations, program designing, communications and more.

Their safety is now in question under the Taliban.

“I think about the women I worked with,” said Le. “I think about the families that were trying to dream of a better Afghanistan. I think about my former staff I worked with who risked their lives to support the United States.”

Le and other former co-workers have been working to help their Afghan friends and former colleagues get out of the country.

“Some have made it out to third countries,” said Le. “Some are in Kabul in sort of this holding pattern just like many just outside the Kabul international airport.”

Getting them out hasn’t been easy.

“The biggest barrier for my former staff and the folks I worked with, particularly women, is sort of the pending retributions that are coming,” said Le.

It’s been even harder in the last 24 hours since the Taliban said it’s no longer allowing Afghans to evacuate.

“It’s made me feel quite guilt-ridden knowing that their work with me at one point represented a golden ticket for a new future for them and potentially resettlement in a different country but if that paperwork is found by the Taliban or other not so good forces, that becomes a death sentence,” said Le.

President Biden said he asked the Pentagon and State Department for contingency plans in case the timeline needs to change but for now, the Aug. 31 deadline remains in place.