Left to right: Lithuanian Major Vadimas Jeriominas pictured with Afghan interpreters Hamidullah Azimi, Basir Yousofi and Nader Yusufi in Ghor Province, Afghanistan

By JOSH FRIEDMAN

When NATO pulled out of the war in Afghanistan, the battle had just begun for a group of Afghans who served western forces.

At least six of those Afghans (profiled below) are now on the run from the Taliban. They are trying to reunite with one of their colleagues who managed to flee to the unlikely destination of Lithuania.

Following an interview last month with FreeManPost, Abdul Basir Yousofy was granted a visa and was flown from Greece to Lithuania. Yousofy gained immediate fame in the Baltic state by asking in Lithuanian for help from the Lithuanian president and people. His story was then published and broadcast in international media.

Yousofi at the airport in Vilnius

Yousofi at the airport in Vilnius, LT Credit: AGENTURA LAVA

Yousofy learned the language while serving as an interpreter for Lithuanian troops in Afghanistan. Several other Afghans, too, served as interpreters for the Lithuanian military. Most only speak a little Lithuanian, though. During their stints as interpreters they would translate from Farsi to English.

As had been the case with Yousofy, their lives are at risk in Afghanistan now that NATO troops are gone. Those who remain in Afghanistan include the man who served as Lithuania’s head interpreter, as well as a translator who joined Lithuanian troops on numerous military operations.

While NATO forces were leaving in 2013, a group of 10 interpreters, including Yousofy, authored a letter to local Afghan security officials. They stated NATO’s departure from Afghanistan was turning their lives and the lives of their families into a nightmare.

“We were threatened to death several times because of working with foreign troops,” the interpreters said in the letter. “We can’t go out of our houses. It’s like we are in jail.”

Television news in Afghanistan broadcast images and video clips of them and stated they were working with foreigners, the interpreters wrote.

Several top security officials in Ghor Province reviewed the letter and verified their concerns, according to a translated document provided to FreeManPost.

After NATO pulled out, the Afghans who worked with the Lithuanian military fled Ghor Province. A few reached Europe with the recent wave of refugees. Others moved to different parts of Afghanistan and have needed to frequently change locations due to the threats they face.Nader Yousufi Letter EngNader Yousufi Letter Farsi

An Afghan intelligence document that was reportedly drafted this week states the Taliban is planning a terror attack targeting one of Lithuania’s former interpreters, Mohammad Nader Yusufi. The report states Yusufi took part in NATO military operations against the Taliban in Ghor Province.

Yusufi told FreeManPost the Taliban is targeting him in particular because many Taliban insurgents were killed during the NATO operations in which he participated.

“They recognized I was the interpreter who attended the operations,” Yusufi said.

Nader Yusufi with Lithuanian troops

Nader Yusufi with Lithuanian troops

Yusufi also said local Mullahs have told people to harass him because he served the infidels and worked against Islamic traditions.

Yusufi and the other interpreters who remain in Afghanistan declined requests to appear on camera. They said Basir Yousofy’s video plea to Lithuania circulated in Afghanistan and caused them to face additional hostility.

One man who is currently in Greece agreed to appear on camera. Nazir Honar, a former officer with the UN-sponsored Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Program (APRP) worked closely with Lithuanian troops for about three years. Honar journeyed with Basir Yousofy from Afghanistan to Greece, and he is currently living in a camp in Athens. Honar’s video plea can be viewed below.

Why Lithuania?

During the war in Afghanistan, the United States introduced Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs). In the western Ghor Province, Lithuania was tasked with leading the PRT.

The Ghor Province PRT also included military and civilian personnel from Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, Georgia, Japan, Poland, Ukraine and the U.S.

The interpreters profiled below worked primarily with Lithuanian troops, but also with soldiers from other NATO states, including Croatia and Denmark. Each of the interpreters is seeking asylum in Lithuania, but they say they would also accept asylum in other European countries. 

Basir Yousofy is currently living in Lithuania on a short-term visa. He is in the process of obtaining asylum and moving his family to Lithuania.

Lithuania has committed to accepting about 1,100 refugees by 2017.

Asylum Seeker Profiles

Abdul Basir Yousofy

Age: 22

Current location: Rukla, Lithuania

Afghan security officials previously stated his life was in danger.

Granted visa by Lithuania

Hamidullah Azimi

Age: 24

Current location: Undisclosed area of Afghanistan

PRT service: April 2012-Aug 2013

Afghan security officials previously stated his life was in danger.

Nazir Honar

Age: 26

Current location: Athens, Greece

*PRT service: 2011-2013

*Honar was not employed by the PRT. He was a a development officer for the Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Program (APRP). In that role he worked closely with the PRT and Lithuanian troops. Honar had the duty of encouraging Taliban insurgents to lay down their arms.

APRP officials previously stated his life was in danger.

Honar said he would like officials to know that he has a valid biometric passport.

Noor Ahmad Obaid

Age: 24

Current location: Undisclosed area of Afghanistan

PRT service: Oct 2011-Aug 2013

Brother of senior interpreter Noorullah Obaid; father was killed by the Taliban

Afghan security officials previously stated his life was in danger.

Noorullah Obaid

Age: 32

Current location: Undisclosed area of Afghanistan

PRT Service: May 2010-Aug 2013

  • served as the senior interpreter and culture adviser for the Lithuanian PRT
  • also worked with Danish forces from April 2010 to the end of 2011

Brother of interpreter Noor Ahmad Obaid; father was killed by the Taliban

Afghan security officials previously stated his life was in danger.

Statement made by Obaid:

“I have been threatened to death by Taliban insurgents,” Obaid said. “I put my life at risk working with Lithuanian troops. I want to request support from the Lithuanian troops and Lithuanian government.”

Abdul Zaher Sarwary

Age: 28

Current location: Undisclosed area of Afghanistan

PRT service: July 2011-December 2011

  • worked with Lithuanian and Croatian troops
  • worked with the U.S. Department of Agriculture

Also worked for the UN for six months — trained Afghan teachers

Sarwary said the Taliban threatened to kill him.

Mohammad Nader Yusufi

Age: 23

Current location: Undisclosed area of Afghanistan

PRT service: April 2011-Aug 2013

Afghan security officials previously stated his life was in danger.