Major Mohammed Naiem Asadi, one of Afghanistan’s few elite attack helicopter pilots, his wife and four-year-old daughter had been approved in October to move to the US but this month that decision was overturned.
According to Asadi he has been told he will be forced to leave the US base in Afghanistan on Monday if he does not rejoin the Afghan Air Force, Stars and Stripes reported.
In a letter to US officials, Asadi’s lawyer Kimberly Motley said she was “extremely concerned” the major would be imprisoned and separated from his family if turned over to the Afghan military.
According to Stars and Stripes, the Afghan government has threatened to imprison pilots in the past for attempting to gain asylum in other countries.
For the last month, Asadi and his family have been living under US military protection, but on Sunday afternoon, US and Afghan military officers told Asadi that if he does not rejoin the Afghan Air Force, he will be forced to leave the base, Asadi told Stars and Stripes.
Meanwhile, the Afghan Defense Ministry has said it is committed to protecting him, Asadi said he doubts the Afghan government’s ability and willingness to protect him at a time when the country is witnessing a wave of assassinations by the Taliban.
Asadi meanwhile is said to have killed more Taliban than any other pilot in the Afghan Air Force during thousands of flight hours, Afghan and US military officers told Stars and Stripes.
In the summer, he protected an American pilot who crashed his A-29 Super Tucano attack turboprop in northern Afghanistan, a letter of commendation signed by US Air Force Captain Robert V. Yost said.
Asadi led a flight of two MD-530 attack helicopters that scrambled to protect the crash site in Taliban-contested territory, and Asadi’s efforts were vital to the pilot’s rescue, Yost wrote.
“The incident was just one of countless events where Maj. Asadi’s actions have protected and saved lives,” he wrote.
Asadi applied for asylum in the US under Significant Public Benefit Parole, a temporary status for noncitizens in need of protection. He then passed several background checks, with a US military contractor confirming the authenticity of the Taliban death threats he received, Stars and Stripes reported.
According to Motley, risks to Afghan pilots from the Taliban dramatically increase once it’s known they are applying for a visa to leave the country.
“It is also quite clear that the Afghan government cannot (or will not) protect the Asadi family from the Taliban,” Motley said in her letter. “They simply do not have the capacity or ability.”
Asadi told Stars and Stripes on Sunday he is concerned with what may happen to him and his family should they leave the base.
“It’s very scary for me,” Asadi said. “My wife, she knows too. She is very sad, she didn’t eat lunch or breakfast; we didn’t sleep last night. It’s a very bad situation.”