Politics

Former U.S. Army Captain urges Biden to evacuate Afghan interpreters before troop withdrawal ends

Key Points
  • A former Army Captain is urging President Joe Biden to move quickly and help remove the interpreters and their families from Afghanistan before they're killed by the Taliban. 
  • Matthew Zeller co-founded "No One Left Behind," an organization that helps get special visas for interpreters from Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • President Biden has set a Sept. 11 deadline to remove all troops from Afghanistan.
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Biden administration under pressure to evacuate Afghan interpreters

An Afghan interpreter saved Matthew Zeller's life when he served in Afghanistan as an Army Captain — now Zeller is urging President Joe Biden to move quickly and help remove the interpreters and their families from Afghanistan before they're killed by the Taliban. 

"Crimes against humanity will be committed, and they'll be broadcast live for the world to see," said the co-founder of "No One Left Behind," an organization that helps get special visas for interpreters from Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Their blood is going to be on our hands if we don't take care of them now, we have to do this, it's a 'never again' moment in the making," Zeller told CNBC on Friday.

President Biden has set a Sept. 11 deadline to remove all troops from Afghanistan. That puts an 85-day clock on getting interpreters out of the country safely, Zeller said. The White House did not immediately return CNBC's request for comment.

Zeller told CNBC's "The News with Shepard Smith" that there is historical precedent for a mass evacuation along these lines, saying the U.S. evacuated tens of thousands of civilians from war zones following the Vietnam War and in the late 1990s.

"We've got a pretty good history of keeping our promise when asked to," he said.

As of September 2019, roughly 18,000 Afghans are waiting for special immigrant visas. It takes 996 days, on average, for the State Department to process each one. 

Zeller told host Shepard Smith that the U.S. military's mission in Afghanistan would not have been possible without interpreters. 

"The Taliban used to shoot at them first in firefights, because they understood just how critical they were to our efforts," Zeller said. "They were the most critical asset on the battlefield, next to our weapons."