News Analysis Aug 31, 2021 6:58 PM EST

Afghan interpreter who once rescued Biden in Afghanistan left behind after US withdrawal

"Don't forget me here," begged Mohammed, an Afghan interpreter who helped save then-Sen. Joe Biden and other US senators from the Afghan mountains in 2008.

Afghan interpreter who once rescued Biden in Afghanistan left behind after US withdrawal
Nick Monroe Cleveland, Ohio

"Hello Mr. President: Save me and my family," wrote one soul left behind in Afghanistan amidst the recent departure of US military forces.

"Don't forget me here," pleaded Mohammed to President Joe Biden for both the Afghan interpreter's sake and for the sake of his four children in hiding.

The Afghan interpreter was 36-years-old back in 2008 when he helped rescue then-Sen. Joe Biden and other lawmakers out of the Afghan mountains.

Two of the group's Army helicopters were forced to make an emergency landing because of a blinding snowstorm. On board were the Delaware progressive, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, and Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel.

"At Bagram Air Field, Mohammed jumped in a Humvee with a Quick Reaction Force from the 82nd Airborne Division and drove hours into the nearby mountains to rescue them. Mohammed spent much of his time in a tough valley where the soldiers said he was in more than 100 firefights with them," wrote the Wall Street Journal in an exclusive report including Mohammed's plea for refuge.

Mohammed applied for a visa to leave Afghanistan in June of this year. But it got stuck in a situation that wasn't sorted out in time for the Taliban takeover the crisis-hit country. Biden is in a position to save Mohammed from danger now as Mohammed saved the president from a supposed danger in 2008.

What's worse is that when on the campaign trail as President Barack Obama's vice presidential pick that year, Biden over-embellished the circumstances.

Local reporting at the time placed the incident as having occurred on Feb. 21 of that year. Nobody was injured. It was a blip on a routine tour that went wrong.

"Other than getting a little cold, it was fine," Kerry told the Associated Press.

At the time of the incident, Kerry was happy to report that the entire delegation of politicians on a tour of Afghanistan's forward firebases made it safely to Bagram Air Base, after the group's emergency landing in the mountains.

"We sat up there and traded stories. We were going to send Biden out to fight the Taliban with snowballs, but we didn't have to do it," Kerry said at the time.

But that wasn't the end of it. Fast forward to September 2008, and Obama's running mate Biden dramatized the fiasco on the campaign trail.

On Sept. 9, 2008, Biden spoke to a crowd of donors at Lincoln Park in Chicago that he was ready for the upcoming debate against McCain's vice presidential pick Sarah Palin: "The superhighway of terror between Pakistan and Afghanistan where my helicopter was forced down...John McCain wants to know where bin Ladin and the gates of hell are? I can tell him where. That's where al Qaeda is. That's where bin Ladin is. It's not in the country of Iraq."

A younger Jake Tapper writing for ABC News dug into the story as Biden repeated the tale to the National Guard Association. The comments on Sept. 22, 2008, differed: "If you want to know where al Qaeda lives, you want to know where bin Laden is, come back to Afghanistan with me. Come back to the area where my helicopter was forced down, with a three-star general and three senators at 10,500 feet in the middle of those mountains. I can tell you where they are."

Again, per Kerry's description, there was no al Qaeda danger.

"It went pretty blind, pretty fast and we were around some pretty dangerous ridges. So the pilot exercised his judgment that we were better off putting down there, and we all agreed," Kerry said, describing the weather closing in.

At the time this incident was examined in September 2008, the Mother Jones outlet used the original reports from February of that year and not Biden's later repackaging of it, in an attempt to deflect criticism. However, in both of Biden's recollections of the story, he seemingly left out the part about the snowstorm.

Even McCain's spokesperson at the time poked fun at Biden's embellishment. "Biden's exaggeration of his Afghan helicopter ride is no surprise and reminds us of his daily assignment to embellish and fashion a record for Barack Obama where one simply does not exist," said McCain spokesman Ben Porritt.

The situation in Kabul isn't pretty. Today, there was reporting about a gay Afghan man being beaten and raped by the Taliban in the city.

It's not just Americans or Afghans stranded who want to get out. Hundreds of Canadians as well as service dogs left behind have made the rounds.

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