Afghani Who Created Propaganda For USA

May 01, 2022 59.5K Views 488 Comments

During the 20-year war in Afghanistan, many Afghanis helped the American military. Today we meet Mohammad who worked in journalism creating propaganda videos (his words not mine) for the Afghani population. Now that the Taliban is back in control, those who worked with the Americans are in danger. Mohammad, and his family were some of the lucky ones who escaped to the USA. But many weren’t so lucky. Today we chat about that experience of escaping, who was left behind, what Afghanistan is like now, and his perspective on living in America.

► United Afghani Association: https://unitedafgassociation.squarespace.com/donationcenter
► Amazon donation link: https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/37MYGHN9SJTEV?ref_=wl_share
► Mohammad’s email for job proposals: Atal00001@gmail.com

► Video edited by: Natalia Santenello

♪ electronic ♪
Good morning, guys.
Today we’re meeting with
an Afghan man named Mohammad
who recently fled from Afghanistan.
He worked for
the psychological operations team
creating propaganda videos
for the US government.
His words, not mine.
Him and his family were one of the
lucky few to get out of the country.
He was under direct threat
from the Taliban
’cause he worked with the Americans.
So we have the great privilege
to talk to Mohammad today.
To ask him what the situation
was like in August
and leaving the country
how it’s been being under
direct threat from the Taliban
and how are people
in Afghanistan doing now?
The ones that have
worked with the Americans especially.
We wanna get his perspective on
how they’re coping
and surviving this
very difficult situation.
Should be an eye-opening video.
Let’s do this.
♪ electronic ♪
Well first, I wanna thank you
for agreeing to do this
because I’ve tried many Afghans,
to get them on camera
and a lot of them want to do it
but they have family members back there.
Yeah.
And they can’t jeopardize talking
about the situation here
and the Taliban is all over the people
that worked with the Americans, right?
Yeah.
But you’re maybe an exception
’cause all of your family is here, right?
Yeah, I have all of my family in here
and some of my family live in [unclear]
Netherlands, Germany
they’re outside Afghanistan now.
Walk us through August…
Yes.
What was that like?
Did you see it coming?
Before this collapse in Kabul
I was scheduled to fly
on the 15th of August
out of Afghanistan.
I was in Kabul City.
Uh-huh.
I just went to take some cash from bank.
Suddenly someone called me,
“The Taliban are in Kabul.”
I just thought there…
“What’s happening?”
I didn’t know that would happen
(so) soon, something…
Because we were thinking it might
happen in six months.
At least it will take, like two months
but it happened suddenly.
How did you have access
to getting on a plane?
Yeah…
Some people didn’t
or what’s that story?
This is the interesting part
of when I left Afghanistan.
On that day and that night,
I spent all the night
I was waiting for the ticket
in the morning time.
I receive a message,
“Don’t go HKIA.”
HKIA was like my base
that I was working there.
Okay.
I was working there five years.
US base?
Yeah, it was a NATO base.
Okay.
They just sent me an email
that I must not go there.
I should wait for the instruction
how to go there.
The second day I received a gate pass
to access the airport.
When I go there
I waited like 10 hours in the gate.
I was unable to go inside.
So basically, you were
what we saw on the media?
You were one of those people
at the airport?
Yes.
I was unable to go inside.
Then we just get contacted
with the NATO base.
A main office in Belgium
and our colleagues that
were working with us and says…
We were texting every day.
How to make a solution?
Because I was not alone.
I was not the only man there to get inside
because thousands of the people that work
with the United States government
and the people working with NATO…
Mm-hmm.
They were just stacked outside
because it was very rushed…
-Outside the airport?
-Outside the airport.
There was very rush,
no one was able to go inside.
On the day where the explosion happened
I was there.
Like 10 minutes before,
I received a text message.
Like a warning that I must leave the area.
I was inside the (wire)
and I saw, like a…
It was over my shoulder.
Right.
I was inside looking for any US soldier
to help me, to come outside
but I was unable.
I wanted to text someone.
When I take out my mobile phone…
Because thousands of people
are waiting there.
The mobile phone was not working good,
no good signal there.
Okay.
I just tried to open
and send a text message.
I see this message and
I was telling everyone,
“Leave this place.”
“Something is going to happen here.”
“It’s a warning in here.”
It’s like alerting here.
Right.
No one was helping me
even to come outside of the wire.
It was a way that you could get there,
like in two hours.
I just left and in 10, 15 minutes
I was like maybe
a kilometer far from there.
Okay.
Then the explosion happened,
lots of people were killed there.
Where was your family at this time?
They were with me.
Okay, so you guys were packed in there,
super-crowded?
Yeah, yeah, I told my wife
“Let’s leave here.”
“It’s not easy to stay here.”
How many kids do you have?
I have two kids.
So there are four of you together?
Yeah, we are four of us together.
After that, they arranged
some busses for us..
From the NATO.
Okay.
And then we came to the airport
on the street which is
going to the airport
we stayed there for two nights.
After two days, the Taliban were
not allowing our busses to go inside
and we were scared
to leave the area.
The list of people that were in the bus
it was shared with them
to allow them inside
but they were not allowing them
and after that, we were scared.
If we go back home, they have our list.
They recognize us,
they have our names, everything
and we stayed on the street.
After two nights and three days
we were allowed to go inside there
camp under the flight
and it was like tornado in August.
Was the flight absolutely full?
Like people in the aisle
and everything or what?
Yeah.
It was a military flight
or something like this.
Okay.
But when I get inside my base
where I was working
when I see everything was destroyed.
What do you think
the numbers are as far as
people that worked with the Americans?
What percentage got out,
what percentage is still there
or tough to say?
Yeah.
I only see from my colleagues
(at that time), I’m in contact with them.
They are still in Afghanistan.
40% of the people who were
working with the US government
international community,
not only US government.
-When we are talking about the NATO.
-Yeah.
We are talking about
the international community
from Europe, from here,
from different countries.
There are lots of people
that are still (left) behind.
Some of my friends,
they just come without their family.
Yeah.
Their family are still in Kabul.
Those left behind right now
you’re saying roughly 40%
that worked with the Americans…
Yeah.
60% got out, roughly 40% are still there?
Yeah.
And then they’re basically in hiding?
Is that the story or what?
Basically, they are hiding,
they cannot work
they cannot go outside.
Maybe the Taliban will catch them
and they will start asking them
what they were doing.
Maybe some of them were injured, killed.
One of my friends
he was working with the German troops.
He came, he wanted to flight
he was captured by the Taliban
for three, four days.
Okay.
When the evacuation process finished,
they released him.
He says, “You cannot go anywhere now.”
They kept him in the jail.
So it’s not easy now to stay there.
Mostly they cannot work.
They’ll never find the chance
to work with them because
basically they were working
with the US government
and no one will accept them now.
So you never foresaw this
working with the Americans
that things would change that quickly?
Did you?
Uh, no.
I was not thinking that
everything would change like this.
Are people disheartened
with the US government?
How they handled this,
or what’s the feeling amongst Afghans?
Yeah, when the US government was
there in Afghanistan.
The US troops were there in Afghanistan
there was lots of
job opportunities for the people
Right.
Like me, I was working 10 years
with the different NGOs
different parts of
the United States government.
It’s not only United States government
they were just creating job opportunities
for the people.
Okay.
Something that…
There is nothing now.
400,000 people that were working
at the government
-They don’t have jobs anymore.
-Mm-hmm.
How do they survive?
Family, friends, help?
Family, friends help mostly.
If they have any friends
and family members from outside
or they have some savings in the bank
now they have some access,
limited access to their banks
that they are receiving
from their savings.
Because of that, the situation
is getting worse day by day there.
When we came in here
any Afghan that arrived in here
the first thing is the cultural difference
the system difference in here.
Like everything is
not easy like Afghanistan.
Yes, like the life
is very simple in Afghanistan
and here it’s something different.
When I came in here,
I was waiting like three months
around two and a half months
to rent an apartment.
To find an apartment.
Applying for housing,
they have lots of requirements
one of them is I must have
a good credit score in here.
Right.
When I came in here new,
I didn’t have any credit scores.
They were just asking me
everywhere I go.
I’m saying,
“I don’t have any credit.”
He says
“Okay, we will not rent you an apartment
if you don’t a good credit scores.”
The US government brought you
here to the states.
Yeah.
Once you get here,
you were on your own?
Or how does it work?
I got here by the IOM.
They just booked a flight for us.
International Organization
for Immigration.
Okay.
They just gave me to the
international rescue community here.
But they were helping supporting
me for some house…
Gave me something for welcoming,
like $4,000 or something
that I can pay only for
two months of rent my house.
Can you work now?
Yeah, I can work, I know my language.
I have my documents that work.
Yeah, I have my documents,
I receive my green card
I can work.
I’m looking for a job.
This is something also challenging
that what I was working in Afghanistan
I cannot do it in here.
So tell us about what you were
doing there with the Americans.
I was working in a
psychological operation team.
I was basically a video journalist.
Okay.
We were creating spots.
Different propaganda videos
to support Afghanistan government.
To support international community
being there.
You actually legitimately
call them propaganda videos?
Yes, yes.
Yes, it was something like that.
So what was the message?
Everything is pro-America obviously?
It was different messages that we say.
We were just making
for Afghanistan National Army.
We were just supporting
on the battlefield.
Like a propaganda unit.
The second thing we were doing
exploring how the international community
and the United States
helping Afghanistan for improvement.
We were doing government support.
How the government is
working for the people.
Mm-hmm.
They were different types of videos.
We were doing hundreds of the videos
and we were putting them
on the local TVs in Afghanistan.
Different local TVs.
To reach the people [unclear].
A lot of the US campaign
was just a battle of the mindset, right?
-Fair to say?
-Yeah, yeah.
Did the US make any progress in that?
I was feeling, in that time,
the value of the propaganda.
When we stopped our operation
it was like middle of July.
Uh-huh.
After the middle of July,
we (saw) the collapse of the army.
Interesting.
It changed the mindset, the morality
of the soldiers on the battlefield.
The Afghan soldiers?
The Afghan soldiers, yeah.
We see the morality
of the Afghan soldiers
that they lost their morality
because we were the one group
that were supporting them
on the battlefield.
What about the populations?
They weren’t supporting at all
or it just depends where?
It was depends.
The people can not stop the terror.
The people are supporting the NDSF
but when the Taliban was coming there
the people could do nothing.
They were not armed force.
Right.
They were just the people.
The people now,
also against the Taliban
but how can they rise?
They cannot do nothing.
What percentage of the people
do you think’s for the Taliban
versus against them
at this point in time.
It’s really hard, I’m sure to say, but…
Yeah, it’s very hard to say
but lots of the people who are
living in the urban areas
they are against the Taliban.
The rural areas are more pro-Taliban?
Yeah, they are… Not all…
Some of the percentage,
they don’t think about any government.
Not Taliban, anything.
Everything, they’re happy with that.
Like the farmers…
Yeah.
The farmers doing their work,
they did not care about the Taliban
or the government,
or the republic government
-or the Islamic government…
-Okay.
That they have now here in Afghanistan.
For them, it’s nothing
but the people that were educated,
they were working
it affected a lot.
They cannot work.
Lots of people in Afghanistan,
they feel like they are left behind.
Lots of my friends,
they are now in Pakistan
but they are also not feeling good there
because their visas might expire
and they will not have a chance
to come to the United States
and they are scared (to go)
back to Afghanistan.
This is one other part of the story.
They don’t have any
financial support there.
They don’t have any sources
to support themselves there.
So what was it like?
You were obviously very young
but before the Americans came
the Taliban was in charge before.
Yeah.
Was there security?
Were there jobs?
No.
It was the same situation.
It was worse than 2020.
I was a student in school at that time
during the Taliban.
Lots of the people were interested
to immigrate outside of Afghanistan.
[unclear] Immigration was too much.
They were going to Iran.
They were going to Pakistan.
This was the easiest ways.
And they were going by,
illegal immigration to Australia.
To Europe in that time…
To survive the life.
At least one person,
if he was outside the country
could make some money, he could
send lots of money for the family
and he could save their family
but since 2002
there were lots of job opportunities.
There was lots of opportunities
in the government.
Like thousands (of) jobs
that there are not anymore now.
Yeah, the money was coming,
flushed in the system.
There was a system at least.
There was a government at least.
Womens were working,
mens were working.
But it depended where you were, right?
‘Cause Karzai was called
“The Mayor of Kabul.”
Remember at one time?
When Karzai was in power.
Yeah.
He was considered Mayor of Kabul,
meaning he only had control
of the capital, really.
A lot of the provinces
and outlying regions…
But it was changed.
Everything was not like 2002 and 2003.
Okay.
It was getting different,
it was changing.
The army was getting better.
They were receiving good support,
we had a good air force.
It was trained.
It was political reason.
It was not military reason.
I can say totally that we had
a good, brave army
but our politic collapsed.
So there was actually will
on the part of the army?
The president called on the army,
“Don’t fight.”
That’s what he did?
It was something like this.
It was not like in the media
but personally, it was just like messages.
They were sending to them
to “Don’t fight.”
That came from the top,
like “Don’t defend the country.”?
Yeah, don’t defend the country.
I have heard they were interested
to defend the country.
300,000 army is a number, a big number.
Right.
It’s not a small army.
A well-trained army.
We had like 20,000 special forces.
So what’s happened to those guys
that were in the army now?
[scoffs]
They’re all staying at home.
They are scared.
300,000?
Yeah, I was one,
I was in connection with them.
Normally I’m
receiving messages from them.
But they’re scared.
Maybe it’s like Iraq.
What happened in Iraq
when Bremer from the US came in
and he wouldn’t give
Saddam’s old guard jobs.
Yeah.
Once the government changed.
Yeah, but now the Taliban
is also doing the same.
The Taliban only invite the army parts
that they need them.
The Taliban don’t have pilots.
They’re just inviting pilots that come
to work with their government.
But why they don’t accept this
300,000 army that’s well-trained?
If they accept, how do they pay for them?
Is it easy if you pay the salary
for 300,000 army?
So is the Taliban have money right now
or not really?
Not really.
What they have?
Okay.
Enough to keep the government in charge?
This is something, they are
receiving some from customs
but we don’t have any tradings now.
We don’t have import and exports.
We can not call it import and export.
There are some imports,
they are receiving some taxes
but they are just spending
for their daily needs.
Right.
So how was your experience
working with the Americans?
We were colleagues
normally the NATO commander,
General Miller.
He was the latest one.
Right.
He was regularly coming to my office
and to our colleagues.
We had good relations with our friends.
Not only Americans, not only…
It was, like different countries
with the Romania
with the Polish guys
who were there in our unit
Australians
from Czech Republic
it was like a joint effort.
-We worked like that.
-Right.
What is it like for women
in Afghanistan now?
Do you know much of what’s going on
on the ground at the moment or…
I get upset when I hear something
about the women in Afghanistan.
Like they cannot work.
They can work…
Now it’s like if they cannot educate…
Education is like the basic.
Right.
So they cannot educate now
then they cannot work.
So they can’t go to primary,
secondary school
or they can’t go to college?
Sometimes I am happy,
in some parts of Afghanistan
the schools for the girls are open.
They can go to schools
Maybe they’re clothing
will be something different.
They just change their clothing
like they must have a hijab,
something like this in Afghanistan.
Yeah this is something that I have heard
from the different media
and my friends, they have contact
in Afghanistan with them.
In some of the part of the country
I am happy that there are schools.
That they open the schools for the women.
Yeah.
But in some of the part,
like in central part, like in capital
the schools were [unclear] closed.
Kabul is closed, yeah.
This is the capital only
and I heard from Mazari Sharif
the North in Afghanistan
that the schools are open.
I hope that everything
will be open day-by-day
and everyone will be
able to go to school.
Is it a different Taliban
than 20-something years ago
or is it the same?
I cannot say that
it’s changed too much now.
Okay.
They are doing the same strategy
but I hope it will be changed.
The world is not like 20 years ago
everything is changed in the world.
If they want to be a government
and if they want to compete
(with) the countries around us.
Yeah.
If they want to have a good government
they must change their minds,
they must deal with the world
they must maintain
their relations with the world
and they also must maintain
their relations with their people
by (paying) their rights.
Like civil rights.
Their constitutional rights.
They must create job opportunities
for male and females
for young peoples
that they are very educated,
like in 20 years we had a good…
A very big number of the people
that got educations.
They have Master’s degrees,
they have PhD’s
but they are now jobless at home.
I know you just came here
but would you go back
if it was safe for you
and your family to be there?
Would you go back?
It’s my country.
You miss it?
I miss it.
I miss everyday, I miss everything.
The simple life there.
Explain that to, let’s say,
a lot of American viewers
If they haven’t been
to that part of the world.
What do you mean?
Like you meet up with friends
and you hangout longer?
There’s not like this strict schedule.
There’s not all these moving parts,
is that what you mean?
Yeah, this is the same thing
that I can see.
In my country we had time
to visit our friends.
To meet everyday after work
and I mean the simple life
is something that this was the life
that I knew all the tricks
about that life.
Here, I must get familiar
to everything in there.
New, everything is new for me.
Getting familiar to a society,
to a new people
in here, you will have a tight schedule.
You will have only one day for off
for your family
if you work a lot.
It’s something that I must do it
because I must pay for my bills,
my rent, everything.
I think it’s so that I will
meet my family even on the weekend.
[laughs]
Did you think the US was like the movies?
Just everything easy,
and beautiful, and…
-No, nothing is like movies.
-Okay.
Nothing like movies.
You were wise enough.
The money’s not on the tree.
[laughs]
Exactly.
You must work.
You must earn
and you must spend like that.
The reality is different.
We must work a lot
but that’s good.
It’s good that we have
a safe environment.
At least we are safe.
You feel safe here?
I feel safe.
Like in Afghanistan,
every day we had a concern
that there might be a blast
when I’m going to do work.
Mm-hmm.
Now it’s different for me.
For sure, the place I am staying
here in Fremont.
[chuckles]
What’s one thing Americans
could learn from Afghans?
It’s the culture, hospitality.
Do you feel hospitality here or no?
This is something not like in Afghanistan.
You are in the Bay Area,
that says something
but I understand what you’re saying.
When I came in here,
when I meet up my Afghan friends
I feel them, I know what’s happening.
They are very busy,
everyone’s very busy with their lives.
They must work every day.
They don’t have time to visit each other
and life in my country is different.
We are staying with our parents.
We are taking care of them for long times.
Right.
Yeah, as they take care for us
rise up, it’s something not in here.
I cannot see this culture in here.
[chuckles]
What do you think about
this culture though?
You can really be what you wanna be.
You can make what you want out of life.
Nothing’s guaranteed
but the opportunities are here.
There is opportunities here.
It’s the land of opportunities.
We can (belong) a business.
We can just work with our ideas.
If we want, we can do it here.
Still, I can see some people
that they are happy
that the Taliban are ruling Afghanistan.
They are calling them
the freedom fighters.
But these people,
I know most of them
they are living outside
of Afghanistan now
but they are happy the Taliban
are ruling Afghanistan.
I ask them are they ready
to live under the ruling of the Taliban?
This is something that
they will never want for themselves
but for the people of Afghanistan they say
“We love Taliban.” for years.
“They are the freedom fighters.”
but now, nothing of the freedom.
it’s the hunger of the people.
What would you like to say
to those Afghans in Afghanistan?
Some of them will probably see this.
We (say), “If you want to feel
my feelings you can have my shoes.”
I don’t have your shoes,
I’m not in Afghanistan.
I know the situation is very bad
but I want to say (to) them
“Everything will pass one day.”
It’s the only thing to tell them
“Be patient.”
And what about to the US government
and their responsibility to get
those that worked with the Americans
out of Afghanistan?
Don’t forget about Afghanistan.
I forgot to ask you this earlier.
Are there still Americans
stuck over there?
American citizens?
There is still lots of people
that they have
American citizens
and American residents
that they are stuck in Afghanistan.
Okay, so American government,
figure this sh*t out.
This is unacceptable for everyone.
Not okay.
Not okay with you, as an Afghan
not okay with me, as an American.
Politics does its own thing.
Geopolitics is another thing.
Whatever that might be
but we went to a country
and we asked the people
of that country to help us.
Whatever that mission was,
agree with it or now
we can’t let them hang out to dry
and we also definitely can’t
let our own citizens
to be stuck in a
foreign part of the world.
Left on the vine for the Taliban to…
To follow them.
To put them in fear.
To put them and their families
in great danger.
Not acceptable
and it’s unbelievable.
No one can believe it
in this country, honestly.
That that was allowed to happen.
So we’re all together in this
and now it’s up to the politicians
with their policies.
Yeah, thank you very much.
[chuckles]
Yeah, it pisses me off, man.
Okay guys, I also wanted to mention
these are not easy connections to be made
and it was the United Afghan Association
that hooked us up.
Like I was saying earlier
most Afghanis are not gonna speak at all.
The ones that recently came over
because they have family members
at risk, they can’t talk.
They can’t jeopardize their safety.
So thank you, Mohammad.
Thank you very much.
For getting on camera
and telling your story
and the story of what’s going on
and I wanna leave a few links, guys.
Hold on for these.
United Afghan Association.
There are a lot of Afghans coming in
or that have come into Fremont.
A lot are just missing the basics.
Underwear, socks, mattresses
I’m gonna leave an Amazon link below.
This is for
the organization’s Amazon link.
If you want to donate anything,
you can do it there.
Secondly
a lot of these Afghans are able to work
legal to work
some might not have
the best English skills
but they’re hungry for work.
All over the Bay Area and the country
you see “Help Wanted” signs.
We’ll make the connection.
I’m gonna leave that link
below here also.
If you’re an employer
in the Bay Area here
you need help maybe in a restaurant,
landscaping company, whatever.
That link below
and then lastly
Mohammad is a journalist.
He understands this space
inside and out.
He can edit.
He can craft story.
He can film.
You left $100,000
of camera equipment over there?
Yeah, and I’ve got a son, yes.
Mohammad also needs a job
and you got a green card
and a social security number
-like two days ago you said.
-Yeah, yeah.
I’m gonna leave Mohammad’s link
down below also.
Thanks for coming along, guys.
It’s a sad, but very important story
and let’s all hope that
the policy changes
to help those that are in need
in Afghanistan
and you can do your part here,
fellow Americans
by going to the links below.
Okay, ’til the next one, guys.
♪ electronic ♪

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