Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live


Former Afghan interpreter looks for more from Biden at State of the Union

A former Afghan interpreter, Rahmat Mokhtar, who served with U.S. Marines in Afghanistan hopes his presence at Tuesday's State of the Union speech will remind lawmakers of the promise made during the 20-year war — that the trust Afghans placed in the U.S. government would be reciprocated.

Mokhtar will attend with Democratic Rep. Scott Peters, one of the co-sponsors of the Afghan Adjustment Act, a bipartisan bill that would provide permanent legal status to more than 80,000 Afghans after a vetting process, failed to make it to the floor of Congress for a vote last year.

"The Afghan Adjustment Act has failed, (Congress) never passed it … which is signals that, 'Hey, we don't care about the Afghan people,'" Mokhtar said.


After six years working with the Marines, Mokhtar left Afghanistan in 2016 on a Special Immigrant Visa and settled in El Cajon with his wife and started a family.

However, Mokhtar said, Afghans who fled the country after it fell to the Taliban in 2021 didn't come to the U.S. on visas such as his. Instead, they are here under a humanitarian parole program, one that has an approaching two-year expiration date.

"What will happen with them?" Mokhtar said. "They are in limbo right now. There's no pathway for them."

Mokhtar is a volunteer with #AfghanEvac, a coalition of veterans, activists and people in government working on the resettlement issue.

"The issue is one that crosses traditional partisan divides," said Shawn VanDiver, the San Diego Navy veteran who co-founded and chairs #AfghanEvac.


"This issue is so important, not just to veterans of our military. It's important to our frontline civilians, folks who served in and out of uniform overseas, our aid workers and our wartime allies," VanDiver said. "Because this is about the very idea of America, about the value of America's word. When we make a promise, when we make a commitment, when we go in and we say, we're going to do something — then we've got to follow through.”

Rep. Peters said the issue is especially important to veterans.

"The reason I took this up is not just because it's important to stand by our allies — which it is — but it's important to stand by our veterans," he said. "This was their war, this was their effort and these are the people that fought next to them and with them.”

Mokhtar and VanDiver said they were disappointed last year when President Joe Biden didn't mention Afghan resettlement at his first State of the Union Speech. Both are hopeful the he'll bring it up Tuesday.

"There’s nothing more bipartisan, or non-partisan, than this issue,” VanDiver said.

Mokhtar said the bill — which Peters plans to reintroduce this month — means everything to the tens of thousands of Afghans now in the U.S. who stand to benefit.

"It means … a tomorrow," he said. "(It) means a clear future."