New state budget includes funds to help interpreters escape Afghanistan

FILE - In this Aug. 29, 2021, file photo families evacuated from Kabul, Afghanistan, walk past a U.S Air Force plane that they arrived on at Kosovo's capital Pristina International Airport. The Afghans came from the Ramstein military base in Germany, and they will be housed near the U.S. military Camp Bondsteel, 40 kilometers (25 miles) south of the capital Pristina. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu, File)

RALEIGH — North Carolina is now the only state to put real money behind efforts to help interpreters escape Afghanistan, as the newly enacted state budget includes an allotment aiding the rescue of Afghans and their families who worked with U.S. forces in our nation’s longest war.

A $250,000 grant in non-recurring funds will go to a non-profit group called Interpreting Freedom Foundation, which was founded in 2018 and is based in Charlotte. The money’s purpose aligns with the foundation’s mission of supporting former military interpreters and their families while they transition to life in the United States.

According to the Interpreting Freedom website, there are 5 Core Programs, and the “goal is to support that interpreter and their family over a period of 90 days and may include giving the family housing help, clothes, skills training, and even a low-cost vehicle to support their independence and help them get around.”

Interpreting Freedom’s CEO is Ziaulhaq Ghafoori. He is a co-founder of the foundation and was an Afghan Special Immigrant Visa recipient who received his U.S. Citizenship in 2020. Ghafoori, who goes by the callsign “Booyah,” served with U.S. Special Forces between 2002 and 2014 as a combat interpreter and cultural adviser.

Interpreting Freedom’s other co-founder, Bahroz Mohmand, who uses the callsign “Blade,” earned his U.S. Citizenship in 2018. According to Mohmand’s bio, he began helping U.S. Forces at the age of 15, starting in 2004, and continued through 2012.

Another effort to evacuate individuals from Afghanistan comes from the Save Our Allies (SOA) coalition, founded by Chad Robichaux of Mighty Oaks Foundation; Sarah Verardo of The Independence Fund; Nick Palmisciano, the CEO of Diesel Jack Media; and Tim Kennedy, a former Special Forces master sergeant and sniper who is also a former professional mixed martial arts fighter.

In September, SOA announced Phase 1 in its evacuation efforts hadsuccessfully evacuated over 12,000 individuals, including Afghans, interpreters, widows, orphans, Christians, and Americans.”

Since the disastrous withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, both President Joe Biden and the State Department have denied claims the U.S. government was blocking private evacuation flights. But in early September, a leaked State Department email showed the Biden administration had refused to grant permission needed for private evacuation flights from Afghanistan to land in other countries.

It remains unclear what current efforts are being made by the Biden administration to rescue allies and U.S. citizen still trapped in Afghanistan, but some may end up in Qatar.

On Nov. 12, Biden’s Secretary of State Antony Blinken signed the agreement with Qatari officials that establishes Qatar as an official go-between for official communication between the U.S. and Afghanistan.

According to media reports, in a secondary agreement with the U.S., Qatar has agreed to continue hosting around 8,000 Afghans who fled the country during the U.S. withdrawal.

About A.P. Dillon 753 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_