Union County veteran continuing to fight to bring Afghan interpreter back to the U.S

North Carolina

UNION COUNTY, N.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) — Retired Army Sgt. First Class Kevin Rutherford lives a quiet life with his wife and daughter in Union County.

But every day he finds himself worrying about his friend in Afghanistan who, as Rutherford puts it, has a target on his back.

“If anybody knows that he worked with coalition forces, and that person were to be rounded up by the Taliban, you’re just one informant away from being the next person on the chopping block. Literally,” said Rutherford.

When Rutherford served in Afghanistan in 2018, he struck up a quick friendship with a shop owner named “Shah.”

We’re not using Shah’s full name due to Rutherford’s fears of retaliation.

Shah owned a shop near the Army Installation where Rutherford was based.

When American Soldiers wanted items from back home, it was often business owners like Shah who would drive to Kabul and bring supplies to the base.

Had they been caught with those items, Rutherford says they would have been killed.

Now that the Taliban is in control of much of the country, those who worked with American forces are at risk.

“By all accounts, the (Taliban) is going door-to-door looking for these people,” Rutherford said. “And if they find you, you’re done. They march you out in the street and kill you.”

Since 2018, Rutherford and his wife have been trying to bring Shah and his family to the U.S.

What was a slow and arduous process three years ago has essentially grounded to a halt now.

Shah likely doesn’t qualify for a Special Immigrant Visa, since he wasn’t a soldier or interpreter.

Rutherford says he’s been in constant contact with the State Department and local lawmakers. But there’s been no movement.

Rutherford and his wife are even willing to open up their doors to Shah and let him and his family move into their home.

“If we can show the State Department that this particular person has arrangements already laid out for them it might help them get their visa approved,” said Rutherford.

“I saw these people every day and the things that they put themselves through for us. So we said, ‘come to the house. Come stay with us.’”

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