The following book excerpt is taken from “Saving Aziz” by Chad Robichaux with David L. Thomas, (Thomas Nelson, January 2023).
With the Taliban’s takeover imminent, my concern for Aziz’s life, on a 1–10 scale, climbed to 9.
If he had been alone, I would not have worried as much because Aziz could find a way to evade the Taliban and get to a safe location. But he had his wife and six kids with him. And when Aziz and I communicated, his usual steady tone was missing. He was scared for his family.
The velocity behind the Taliban’s momentum forced us to repeatedly adjust our plan of going into Afghanistan with the media story cover. We found a potential work-around for obtaining a business visa for Aziz as his reason for wanting to live in the UAE. To provide legitimacy for the business visa, Aziz needed a stand-up company in Dubai. The project’s cost kept rising. But each time the dollar amount increased, someone compelled by Aziz’s story stepped forward to offer a donation, including Dave Barton and Rick Green from WallBuilders. Another friend kicked in $100,000, giving us a $185,000 budget for saving Aziz’s family.
The media attention on Afghanistan forced the Taliban to try to control its mob, if you will. The Taliban had become more PR savvy, and they knew all they needed to do was run out the clock and the country would be theirs. They could claim that the execution of those twenty-two commandos in Dawlat Abad was part of war. But killing innocent civilians was not, and if reports and videos of the Taliban killing women and children got out, that was perhaps the only thing that might cause the United States to delay its withdrawal.
But controlling barbarians is no easy task.
Atrocities were being handled discreetly by Taliban standards. But the Taliban was known to be systematically seeking out interpreters and other allies for interrogation. Some were killed. Aziz told me that one interpreter had pleaded for help getting out of the country because the Taliban had threatened his life. He was out driving with his young son one day and came upon a Taliban checkpoint. Knowing his fate if he stopped, he sped through the checkpoint. The Taliban shot up his car to stop him. Then they pulled him out of his car and, with his son watching, cut off his head.
Aziz’s greatest fear was that the Taliban would take his wife and kids and force Aziz to watch as they raped his daughters. Only then would they kill Aziz.
Aziz had achieved a high profile around Kabul. We paid interpreters well, and his business smarts had allowed the companies he ran after I left to be profitable. His natural leadership made him a respected figure in his community, so he was easy to find.
Plus, Bashir, the person responsible for the execution of my ten Afghan teammates and the bombing of my house, had been freed. He had become a Taliban leader and now targeted Aziz.
During the Obama administration, prisoners of war were usually released to Afghanistan, and Bashir transferred from the Bagram Air Base prison to the Pul-e-Charkhi prison in Kabul. He served five years there. As Aziz tells the story — and his anger is still evident when he tells it — when Bashir was released, some Americans gave him money and shipped him to Saudi Arabia.
“You guys could have killed him,” Aziz said.
“We don’t kill people like that. That’s not in our rules,” came the reply.
“But he’s one of the bad guys,” Aziz countered. “He told everything about our operations to the Taliban.”
Aziz was assured that Bashir was sent out of the country so he couldn’t reveal more information.
As the Taliban started capturing provinces, Aziz received an alert from a friend who recognized Bashir among the Taliban. Bashir was now a Taliban commander. Aziz knew Bashir would seek revenge for Aziz’s role in his spending six years in prison.
“They are headed to Kabul,” Aziz’s friend warned. “You need to change your location.”
Aziz contacted me to tell me about Bashir and said he and his family were on the move, staying in a different house every night. They lived out of their backpacks, and I spoke to him daily to keep posted on their status and movements.
As good of a plan as our media cover was, it was no longer feasible. Aziz’s family didn’t have that much time.
Securing SIVs for Aziz’s family remained Plan A, but I held out no hope for those chances. We didn’t need a Plan B — we needed a second Plan A. And that plan was to go save Aziz and his family.
Chad Robichaux is a former Force Recon Marine and Department of Defense contractor with eight deployments to Afghanistan as part of a Special Operations Task Force. After overcoming his own personal battles with PTSD, Chad founded the Mighty Oaks Foundation, a leading nonprofit that has served veterans through their faith-based, combat resiliency programs. His new book is “Saving Aziz: How the Mission to Help One Became a Calling to Rescue Thousands from the Taliban.”
Adapted by permission from Thomas Nelson. ©2023 by Chad Robichaux. Published by Nelson Books. Coming January, 2023 wherever books are sold.
The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.