A Heartfelt Gift from Those Left Behind in Afghanistan Arrives in the U.S.
America is slowly getting our allies away from the Taliban after the disastrous withdrawal in 2021
More than two years ago, I committed to supporting the brave allies left behind in the catastrophic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. Today, I am honored to share the extraordinary journey of a heartfelt award— crafted in secrecy from the Taliban-controlled country — that has found its way to my doorstep.
I first told you about the stone gift in this story from over a year ago when a photo of it was sent by an Afghan leader of 150 men who worked on an American base in Afghanistan during the 20 years our military was there.
Global Gift Delivery
Asas, a nickname, was determined to get my gift to America, even if he couldn't secure his own safety yet. He asked one man, who got a Special Immigration Visa (SIV) to come to America, to hand carry the award on an arduous journey.
You will remember from my exclusive reporting after the catastrophic withdrawal in 2021 that Asas lived and worked as a procurement officer for 17 years on the Forward Operating Base Fenty, which was a U.S. military base around Jalalabad Airport.
Asas took the initiative (as I wrote about here) to coordinate all the men who worked with him and were qualified for a SIV in order and help them meet all the State Department requirements.
One of the men on Asas’s list was Awaldar Waziri, who now lives in Norfolk, Virginia. I spoke to him on the phone this week. Awaldar said Asas asked him to bring the gift to America, saying of me, “She’s a good woman who helped our men.”
My help has been both telling their stories on this Substack and asking contacts at the State Department to help process the visas. I was the deputy press secretary at State in the Bush administration.
Awaldar said he agreed to carry the five-pound award to America because “Asas helped all our guys.”
Awaldar told me he put the gift in a backpack and flew from Kabul in early 2023. He said that the award got him flagged at Qatar Airport.
“The security put it through all the machines— this one and that one— for an hour,” recalled Awaldar. “They asked me what it was, and I said, ‘This is just stone!’”
He spent a month in Qatar getting interviewed and checking his paperwork. He then flew with the award in his backpack to Dulles Airport. He finally sent it to me via FedEx. He refused to accept my payment for the shipping costs.
Opening the box
Even though Asas kept me informed over the past 15 months about the award’s progress to America, I was overwhelmed with gratitude when I opened the box. The heavy stone has a carved wood stand and is engraved with the following words:
Emily Miller. August 2021.
“You are the voice of innocent.”
“Thank you for being voice of those who left behind in Afghanistan.”
Moving to America
I asked Awaldar how he likes living in America. He told me that he wants to find a better job to support his wife and five young children.
He now works as a casino security guard and makes $1,500 a month. He said he is experienced from his job doing security on the U.S. base for the forces and CIA based there.
His children range in age from 5 to 14 years old. They didn’t speak any English until they got to the U.S. a year ago and are all in American schools now.
Awaldar’s wife doesn’t speak English and is a stay-at-home mother. He chose to live in Virginia to be near his uncle.
I asked what kind of job he would like to do. He said he’d like to be in the medical field.
If you know of any job openings in the Norfolk area, your assistance could contribute to Awaldar's pursuit of a better future for his family. Please leave a comment (open to all at the bottom), and I’ll email you privately to get more details.
Asas told me that the U.S. has accepted 80 of his list of 150 allies to America. He said that he is close to the end of his interview process to come too. They are all still in hiding from the Taliban for being American supporters.
It astounds me that Asas, a poor man with few resources, could get this award from his place of hiding from the Taliban to Washington, D.C. I’m honored and deeply grateful. But the only award I want is to get all the American allies who we left behind to get their visas to come to safety. We will keep following their stories.