As Diggers prepare to quit Afghanistan, fears grow for interpreters we’ll leave behind

Jan Bismillah Rahime (right) fears Afghanistan will return to Taliban control.

Jan Bismillah Rahime (right) fears Afghanistan will return to Taliban control. Photo: Simon Quaglia

There are concerns the Taliban may yet regain control over the country — a prospect that especially alarms the Afghan interpreters who worked alongside Australian forces, some of whom have since been allowed to resettle here.

Jan Bismillah Rahime, a former interpreter who lives with his wife and children in Newcastle, fears what will happen to his remaining family in Afghanistan after foreign troops depart.

“I worked for the Australian Defence Forces for nearly 14 years, and I put my family in a big risk and a danger because of my service I’ve done for the Australian Defence Forces,” he said.

He said he was particularly concerned after media coverage inside Afghanistan of alleged war crimes by some Australian forces.

“Back in Afghanistan, the people there hear this news, you know, that the Australians, they come only to kill the people, innocent people, so that’s put our families [in a position of] not feeling safe anymore.”

There are also a number of interpreters who worked with Australian troops who remain in Afghanistan.

Retired Australian Army captain Jason Scanes has been working to secure resettlement opportunities for interpreters in Afghanistan.

Mr Scanes said Australia had an obligation to Afghans who served alongside Australian troops.

We need to make sure that we’re doing the right thing and we exercise our moral obligation as a nation to look after those that do put themselves at risk to assist us in securing our national interest.”

‘Time to bring them home,’ says mother of veteran

Private Benjamin Chuck, of the 2nd Commando Regiment, was killed in a helicopter crash in Kandahar Province in 2010.

The 27-year-old is one of 41 Australian soldiers to have died fighting in the 20-year conflict.

His mother Susan Chuck said she missed him and thought often about the phone calls they would share.

Private Benjamin Chuck and two other commandos died in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan in 2010. Photo: DoD

“He was a very loving son and brother, and seeing him grow into his family, he was to be married when he got home,” she said.

“You just miss seeing them mature as wonderful young humans.

“I miss him dreadfully, I miss him every day.

“I never worried about him. That’s the strange thing, I was quite confident he’d be fine.”

Mrs Chuck said she welcomed Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s announcement that Australian troops would withdraw from Afghanistan.

“I think it’s time to bring all the boys home,” she said.

“The situation over there is not in a combat role, it’s in mentoring, but we’ve been over there nearly 20 years.

“I know all the boys that I’ve spoken to, and women — we had females over there as well — they did their best. They were totally committed to what they were doing, they believed in what they were doing.”

She fears the Taliban could return to power eventually, and worries for Afghanistan’s future.

“There are some wonderful, wonderful people in Afghanistan,” she said.

I’m a mother, I’m a human, I feel for them.

Interpreter fears for the future

Mr Rahime is thankful to be among those who have been resettled in Australia.

“I would like to thank the Australian Defence Forces [for giving] us a great chance or opportunity to come to Australia,” he said.

But he also holds grave fears for Afghanistan’s future.

“I think if the coalition forces leave Afghanistan, in my opinion, Afghanistan will go back to guerilla attacks everywhere, on every street.

“The Taliban may take Afghanistan over again and it will go back to that.


Topics: Afghanistan
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