HOUSTON — I first met Ahmad Srosh in 2010 while I was reporting for the BBC. Srosh, an Afghan national, was working as an interpreter for the U.S. Marines in Sangin. At the time, Sangin was the most violent district in Afghanistan’s most violent province, Helmand.
Together, we witnessed Americans and Afghans wounded and killed by Taliban-laid IEDs that were everywhere, and impossible to spot. Srosh did the job for four years, before heading to Kabul to wait for a special immigrant visa to come to the U.S. He couldn’t go home because he was terrified the Taliban would get him first.
“I’m afraid of the day that United States forces leave Afghanistan. It means we are done. They are going to catch me. They are going to probably cut my head off,” he told me at the time.
Interpreters like Srosh were essential to U.S. forces operating in Afghanistan. Often doing multiple tours back to back, they were the eyes, ears and cultural advisers for American soldiers, Marines and diplomats.
But as U.S. forces withdrew from the battlefield, and the interpreters returned home, many of them and their families were hunted by the Taliban, who considered them traitors. The U.N. says an Afghan interpreter is killed every 36 hours for his work for the U.S. A lucky 15,000-plus interpreters have already come to the U.S., but 19,000 still remain in Afghanistan, waiting to hear about their visa status. For most of the interpreters, getting a visa took at least three years.
VICE News caught up with Srosh in his new home in Houston. He told me he works seven days a week to provide for his family here and back in Afghanistan. They can’t work, because leaving the house is too dangerous. The Taliban have already been to his house looking for him. When they were told he wasn’t there, they killed Srosh’s brother instead.
Now that the U.S. is engaged in peace talks with the Taliban, which might result in them returning to power, he’s wondering what the point of it all was.
“I don’t want to lose another member of my family. I want them to get out of Afghanistan. And soon they’re going out,” he said. “Why did you come all the way from the United States to Afghanistan? For temporary freedom?”
This segment originally aired April 24, 2019, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.