Afghanistan’s Taliban takeover hits home for Kansas veteran & translator who ‘protected us’

Local News

MANHATTAN, Kan. (KSNT) – The chaos in Afghanistan hits much closer to home for one Manhattan man and his veteran friend. 

Matt, whose real name has been changed to protect his family in Afghanistan, was once an interpreter for the U.S. military. That’s where he met Aaron Estabrook, a current Manhattan city commissioner. In 2009, Estabrook went to Afghanistan to give – as he describes – a taste of freedom to the Afghan people. 

“At least three times he [Matt] protected us from hitting an IED,” Estabrook said. “We joke that we’ve saved his a bunch too.” 

Estabrook has lost friends. Matt has lost family, including most recently, his brother-in-law who was shot in the head by a sniper. As the humanitarian crisis unfolds, both men who once served are left feeling helpless as the world watches the Taliban take over. 

“We had people who devoted their last breaths to fighting in that country, for an idea of freedom,” Estabrook said. 

The war that started after 9/11 may be coming to an end for U.S. troops, but a new one begins amongst the Afghan people unable to escape. 

“There’s no doubt that we needed to leave Afghanistan as a country, as an army, as an occupying force,” Estabrook said. “But we do have some control in how we leave and the responsibilities we made and the people we worked with. The dreams, the taste of freedom that we gave and provided for 20 years to Afghan people. They stuck their necks out and risked things too, the women, the artists, the people who were trying to become a more progressive, free country, and we can’t leave them hanging.” 

Estabrook was able to get his friend Matt to come build a new life in the Little Apple, but not everyone is as lucky. The process for Matt took several years and several calls to Kansas’ Sen. Jerry Moran. 

“This is my request for the U.S. president, he knows very well about the situation, my only request is to help them, those who are in more trouble, to get them out,” Matt said. 

Estabrook believes there is still hope for the future. 

“His kids are here, they could change the world,” Estabrook said. “They can go back to Afghanistan someday and bring back reforms. There are people like that all over the world. It’s not over yet. I wouldn’t be here without his help. My family and what we’ve created in Manhattan is deeply tied to the Afghan people.” 

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