WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) – The news of U.S. troops leaving Afghanistan did not come without some concern, even on the local level. Hours before the last plane left, Wichita attorney James Thompson shared that a family of Afghan nationals that helped the U.S. during the war was able to safely evacuate.
The plans to help that family evacuate have been going on for about a week and the team Thompson has been working with has been anticipating this result. He called Monday’s developments emotional. There are some concerns, but he notes that there is more work to be done.
A week’s worth of work met with dozens of phone calls to numerous connections finally paid off for Thompson, also a U.S. Army veteran.
“It is exciting to get some out, but there are still some more that we need to get,” he said, referring to the now more than 1,000 Afghan nationals he is hoping to help flee the country.
“These people helped our troops. They have a connection to us here in Kansas, so we really wanted to do something to help them,” Thompson said.
He said the team he’s on is looking to help 107 people altogether, including the first five who escaped Monday. Thompson said the father in that family, just 21 years old, started working with American troops when he was 10. Now, more than a decade later, he is able to leave the country with his two youngest children. The family’s journey has been dangerous. Thompson shared a few of their struggles over the last several days.
“Moving four or five times in a day, several times at night, sometimes running through these checkpoints, hoping they don’t ask too many questions,” Thompson said.
He said the Taliban had searched the home of a relative where the family had been hiding. Relatives at the home were killed and their oldest son was kidnapped. Monday’s rescue is what Thompson hopes is one of many, adding the withdrawal of U.S. troops a day early does change some of their plans. But he said his team hopes to help as many families as it can, calling the situation, “urgent.”
“These families are desperate, not just to get out of the country, but to live and see that their children live as well,” Thompson said.
Thompson credits people on both sides of the political aisle with aiding in the evacuation. He said the next steps for the family who made it out of Afghanistan Monday is to get a special immigration visa, a process that could take months, but they are hoping to see Congress expedite. Ultimately, Thompson said he would like to see the family safely relocate to Kansas and that they are lining up resources for them to do so. Toward that effort, he started a GoFundMe page.
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