They’re grateful to see one another once more.
In late November 2020, journalist Toby Harnden was in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan, researching his new e-book, “First Casualty: The Untold Story of the CIA Mission to Avenge 9/11,” and dealing with a resourceful younger translator and medical scholar named Rohullah Sadat.
A 12 months later — the day after Thanksgiving — the pair had been reunited exterior of New Jersey’s Fort Dix beneath very completely different circumstances. Harnden was taking Sadat, now a refugee, to his Virginia residence, the place his erstwhile translator will reside in a spare room as he navigates his new life in the US.
“I’m going to Toby’s home,” Sadat, 29, informed The Submit. “It’s thrilling and emotional. I hugged him, and it was a tremendous feeling.”
Harnden, who had pushed three hours to the Backyard State to select up Sadat, had introduced alongside his canine, Idler, for the journey. Sadat and the pooch bonded instantly.
“Typically talking, folks in Afghanistan aren’t used to having canine as pets. However Idler is a rescue … in order that they have loads in widespread,” Harnden informed The Submit from the street.
“I’ve to take Rohullah to some place that’s classically American, like Cracker Barrel,” he added.
After a harrowing few months, Sadat is lastly getting a style of America.
After the US withdrew from Afghanistan in late August and the Taliban subsequently seized energy within the area, Sadat, like lots of his countrymen, was determined to flee.
With no assist coming from the US authorities, Harnden introduced consideration to Sadat’s plight by means of social media and harnessed connections who facilitated his harmful escape from Afghanistan. First Sadat flew to Doha, Qatar, the place he spent a number of weeks earlier than lastly heading to the US on a humanitarian parole visa.
For the final 36 days, Sadat has been dwelling in a refugee camp at Fort Dix — together with almost 9,000 different Afghans — the place he took courses to acclimate to life within the US.
“We had tradition courses and driving courses. They train you about every thing; how one can go to the barber and what to tip waiters. They informed us how one can deal with girls and to respect them. In America, girls are very variety so we don’t should take it critically in the event that they smile at you. Don’t assume they’re in love with you,” Sadat defined.
They had been additionally taught life-coping expertise, reminiscent of endurance and accountability. There have been classes on American historical past and geography. Sadat was significantly keen on Alaska and Hawaii, since they’re bodily indifferent from the mainland. And he performed volleyball, basketball and soccer with troops on the bottom.
“We beat the troops in volleyball, however soccer is new for us. You want a particular approach to throw the ball precisely,” stated Sadat, who performed cricket in his place of origin.
He additionally had his first conventional turkey dinner on Thursday. Throughout his time at Fort Dix, the polyglot, who speaks six languages, discovered himself performing as an interpreter for his fellow refugees. However he was keen to depart and embark on the brand new part of his life.
“While you go to the camp, everyone seems to be Afghan so that you don’t really feel like you might be in America. You’re feeling like you might be in Kabul,” he stated. However with Harnden as his established shut contact, he was capable of go away as an “unbiased departure.”
Most refugees stay within the camp till the federal government finds them housing. At the moment, they’re inserting them in states reminiscent of Kentucky, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, in line with Harnden.
“He was fairly eager to get out. If in case you have no kin and connections, the federal government is discovering housing. It takes time,” stated Harnden.
The British-born US citizen, who has written two books on Afghanistan, stated they may eat Thanksgiving leftovers for dinner. And Sadat is raring to strive native seafood delicacies reminiscent of shrimp and crab legs.
This weekend, they may meet with members of Workforce Alpha, the topic of Harnden’s newest e-book, which chronicles the CIA’s early invasion of Afghanistan. They are going to go to the grave of Alpha Workforce member and first American casualty Mike Spann, who died there 20 years in the past on Nov. 25.
Harnden stated Sadat will proceed to have help from Workforce Alpha members, together with retired CIA officer David Tyson, Spann’s widow Shannon and a New Jersey-based physician.
“There’s a Dr. [Abul] Azim who’s an Afghan-American and left within the late ’90s. He’s a central determine on this little casual group serving to Afghans. He’s speaking to them daily [and] seeing them by means of this course of as a result of he is aware of loads concerning the system,” stated Harnden.
Sadat, who was in his ultimate 12 months of medical college earlier than leaving his homeland, has his personal agenda.
“I wish to proceed medical college,” Sadat stated. However earlier than he begins the difficult course of of continuous his schooling and turning into a health care provider, he hopes to discover a job and safe his inexperienced card.
As Sadat drove with Harnden to his new digs in Virginia, he mirrored on the horrors he witnessed whereas attempting to flee his homeland. He noticed determined folks fall off planes, watched girls get trampled to dying on the airport in Kabul and was trapped on an overcrowded, scorching bus for greater than 24 hours.
“It’s a nightmare for me and I can not get it out of my mind. I can not neglect [those who died or continue to suffer], and I really feel responsible,” he stated, including, “However I really feel fortunate and grateful, too.”