As the U.S. military and State Department rush to evacuate American citizens and Afghan allies from Kabul’s airport, Taliban checkpoints are cutting off many from freedom and safety – and reports on the ground indicate the militants are summarily executing people who helped U.S. forces over the years.
Ryan Rogers, a retired Marine sergeant, told Fox News Thursday that the interpreter he worked with during the bloody 2010 battle of Marjah in Helmand province is currently trapped in Kabul, prevented from reaching the airport as Taliban fighters seek out and murder former Afghan commandoes and interpreters.
“He told me yesterday they hung three [Afghan National Army] commanders that they had found,” he said. “And that close to the place that he’s hiding, they’re going house-to-house and that they sent a transmission out saying they had plans for the people that operated with America.”
The interpreter, who is not being identified due to concerns about his safety, was OK as of Thursday afternoon.
“I said, hey, did you see any of this stuff with your eyes? He said yes,” Rogers said. “They’re not showing this stuff because the people are cheering, but they’re scared to death, and they’re hanging these people. And he said they’re going house to house and their priorities are Afghan National Army Special Forces, the police special forces and the interpreters.”
The Biden administration on Thursday finally acknowledged reports that evacuees were having trouble reaching the international airport and Kabul, which is surrounded by Taliban checkpoints.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said during a Thursday news briefing that the government had received a “small handful of reports” of American citizens who were unable to reach the airport. But he also said that though U.S. officials were aware of reports that interpreters and former Afghan military officers were being hunted and killed by the Taliban forces, he could not confirm their veracity.
“I’m just not in a position to confirm those details,” he said. “Every time we see a detail like this, we take it extraordinarily seriously, and we do what we can.”
Over the past two weeks, as Taliban forces swept across the country, there were reports of the militants executing surrendering Afghan soldiers. And Fox News has received video showing gunmen in pickup trucks, firing bullets in the streets of Kabul.
“In a bipartisan fashion, there’s extreme disappointment, especially by those that have served,” Rep. Brad Wenstrup, an Ohio Republican and Army Reserve officer, told Fox News. “And we have lost on this our moral standing in the world, and it’s a sign of weakness rather than strength.”
Wenstrup pointed to bipartisan legislation passed months ago designed to lessen the red tape U.S. allies would need to get through to safely leave the country as the American military withdrew. But the rushed withdrawal left thousands of people stranded anyway.
“I find it hard to believe that our military and intelligence community would have recommended it this way,” he said, faulting the Biden administration’s leadership. “But those are some of the questions that we need to have answered.”
Wenstrup, who served in the Army in Iraq, said he helped more than one interpreter relocate from there. One of them, now an American citizen and physician at Ohio State, called the Afghanistan situation “disheartening,” the congressman said.
But despite the chaotic U.S. withdrawal, Wenstrup had a message for veterans of the War on Terror.
“We have not had another attack in 20 years,” he said. “We must praise all those that have sacrificed so much in the last 20 years because they did keep us safe, and they should be applauded for that.”
And so did their coalition partners.
“I hope and pray that that interpreter, we find a way to get them out,” Wenstrup said. “My experience is if we get them here, they do everything right to become good U.S. citizens.”
The Pentagon sent thousands of additional troops to the airport this week to help with the evacuations, but defense officials stopped short of saying they would leave the base to rescue Americans or Afghan allies – even as UK paratroopers have been doing so to secure their own people.
Fox News also learned from a credible source Thursday that the State Department is looking into non-military ways to stage and move Americans and others who are in Kabul, as an alternative to sending troops into the city.
But Rogers worries that his interpreter friend could have just hours left if things go south.
Rogers, who is originally from Ohio and now lives in North Carolina, was medically retired from the Marine Corps due to injuries sustained in Marjah. In April, he published a book on his experiences there – which featured the same interpreter trapped in Kabul today.
The interpreter told Rogers he tried to make it to the airport’s fortified east gate Wednesday – along with thousands of other people seeking to escape Taliban control. But he encountered Taliban checkpoints, heard gunshots and turned back.
“It was desperate,” Rogers said. “He said, ‘I have my pistol, and they’re never going to take me. There’s no way it can end like this. It can only end one way — glory be to God.’ I mean, he was scared.”
In response to President Biden’s claim in an ABC News interview that there was no way to leave Afghanistan without “chaos ensuing,” Rogers said the government could have come up with a plan to secure Americans and allies before the Taliban took Kabul.
“If somebody is going to help us for 20 years, and we’re going to make a bunch of promises to them, we need to fulfill those promises,” Rogers said. “And yesterday, it sounded like they weren’t going to go outside the airport. And that’s where a lot of those promises are hiding right now.”
Fox News’ Jacqui Heinrich and Jennifer Griffin contributed to this report.