AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — After weeks of trying to leave Afghanistan, an Amarillo woman and her three children are back home safely, returning last Friday.
With some help from a member of Congress and an ex-contractor and his team, U.S. citizen Mariam Rahim and her family were among the first Americans to escape Afghanistan after August 31.
Rahim said she and her three children were visiting Afghanistan when the Taliban took over.
“My family is over there. my parents, my dad was sick, you know, wanted to visit him. and after 20 days, we tried to early come back home,” Rahim said. “We were looking for the tickets, the tickets were, you know, sold out, all of them everything. So before that everything happened, you know, we tried to come back home.”
She said they went to Kabul to try to get a flight home.
“We still needed some help from State Department, you know. We get call, phone call, phone call, and they told us we go to the airport and the gate, you know, ‘Just show your passport, they let you go in,’ and we stay like 16 hours. We stay like every night, like eight hours, nine hours, and nobody’s helping us.”
Her husband asked U.S. Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-TX 13) for help.
“Her husband, who is here still in Amarillo, was obviously worried about his wife and his children, and they they couldn’t get out, you know, as soon as the Taliban took over Kabul,” Rep. Jackson said. “And this is before the bombing, days and days before that, you know. This is right after Kabul had fallen and the Taliban had taken over Kabul and it was obvious that the Americans, you know, were going to have a lot of trouble getting out.”
He said they immediately reached out to the State Department.
“We gave them all the information we had, copies of the passports, we had everything that we could possibly find, got it to the state department. and we got no results, nothing.”
With increasing danger, Rep. Jackson called Cory Mills, his friend and a former contractor. He and his team gathered resources and planned to make a rescue in Kabul. They aimed to go into the city, save the Rahim family, and several Special Immigrant Visa holders.
“They literally had an aircraft that was circling the airfield and they were told by the State Department and by the U.S. Military, they could not land the aircraft,” he said.
While the congressman’s D.C. office worked to try to help, Mariam and her family continued to try to leave from the Kabul airport.
“I showed the Taliban the passport, you know, they told me, ‘If nobody called your name from inside the airport, we don’t let you go in,’ the first time. And the second time I go ask him the same thing, ‘Brother, I will speak Pashto, you know. how he can help me so I can go in?’ They say, ‘We can’t you know, we can’t? do you understand me or not?’ and they pull the guns and put it to my head. So, you know, that’s two times they did to me,” Mariam Rahid said.
Rep. Jackson said his offices continued to work on their behalf, saying, “The next day, the Americans just, in the middle of the night, just pulled out of the airport, just left Kabul and abandoned Kabul all together.”
He continued, “At that point, we got word that the Taliban were already going around in Miriam’s neighborhood looking for her and her family. They knew she was an American citizen. They were asking neighbors and stuff where they’re at.”
Mills and his team were able to take her family to a safe house 13 hours away in Mazar-i-Sharif.
“At that point that there were six planes on the ground, fueled, had crews ready to go, the manifests were put together.”
But, he said the Taliban would not let the flights leave. They were holding the family as ransom for the U.S. to recognize them as the government of Afghanistan. So, Mills’ team took them to the border of another country for safety.
There, he said the U.S. Embassy finally helped them get tourist visas to enter the country.
“So, that’s what the embassy started working on right away and they helped us with that part of it but they had nothing to do with them crossing,” he said. “They let Mariam and her family across and then we were able to get them on a flight and get them back home, and now we have them here. So, just glad to have them home.”
Mariam was thankful to be alive, as her kids gave her the drive to get back home, no matter what.
“Thank you. I thank you again for everybody, you know, to help me and especially Cory, who is my hero,” she said.
She also confirmed the State Department has called her three times since Friday, after she returned to the U.S. Rep. Jackson said they asked where she was in Afghanistan and did not seem to know she was back in the country.
Rep. Jackson also said the State Department has tried to take credit for the rescue.
“She stayed strong and it was her determination. They got her family out of there. But also we want to thank Cory Mills,” he said, also thanking his team and another company that helped.