Afghan pilot who saved Americans hiding from Taliban after US denies plea for refuge

Josh Marcus
·2-min read
A Black Hawk helicopter near Kabul, Afghanistan
A Black Hawk helicopter near Kabul, Afghanistan

A decorated Afghan Air Force pilot who had saved American lives is now in hiding in Afghanistan from the Taliban after the US military suddenly changed course and denied his emergency request to seek refuge in America late last month.

“I cannot go backward,” Maj. Mohammed Naiem Asadi, 32, told military news site Stars and Stripes, which broke the news. “And I cannot go forward, because I am not allowed to go forward.”

Stars and Stripes accessed documents which showed the Pentagon initially approved the request from Mr Asadi, who reportedly killed more Taliban fighters than anyone else in the Afghan Air Force and helped protect an American pilot who crashed their plane in northern Afghanistan this summer.

“The appropriate officials determined that DoD could not support the request,” Army Maj. Rob Lodewick, a Pentagon spokesman, confirmed to the publication in a statement.

After his family began receiving death threats, Mr Asadi, as well as his wife and four-year-old daughter, sought protection under the Significant Public Benefit Parole, a temporary visa program which would allow them to remain in the US, where they hoped to apply for asylum. The Pentagon reportedly nixed the move when senior officials found out the decision had been made without their approval.

The move infuriated those who had advocated on the airman’s behalf, who said he had nobly aided the US war effort.

“The family was about to travel to the U.S. in good faith, that they had followed the proper process, and been approved,” Bryan P. McAlister, a former Army pilot who was Asadi’s advisor, told Stars and Stripes. “Who is going to finally do the right thing, and let them come to the United States, where the American people are ready to receive and care for them?”

The Afghan helicopter pilot is not alone in facing a sudden immigration status change. Numerous interpreters who assisted the US military have been in legal limbo for years after the president’s 2017 travel ban affecting mostly Muslim nations.

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