“No One Left Behind”


One Jewish man’s mission to save a Muslim family.


The creed “leave no one behind” has become a mandate for a loosely connected network of veterans, active military and law enforcement.

They are dedicated to stealthily evacuating, resettling and advocating for Afghans who served as allies before the abrupt U.S. troop withdrawal and Taliban takeover in August 2021.

Though not a veteran, David Saltzman of Portland made contact through a friend with an Afghani who helped the U.S. military remove land mines. Wasi Dost worked first for a military contractor then formed his own security canine business, protecting the U.S. embassy, among 70 other places.

After the U.S. military pulled out, Dost couldn’t get on an evacuation flight. He went into hiding with his family of eight. Blacklisted by the Taliban, they feared for their lives.

Dost credits Saltzman, 55, of Portland, for a new life for  his family. They arrived in Portland on July 26, 2023.

Saltzman said he got involved with resettling the Dosts in memory of his father, a Marine who, after retirement, helped homeless veterans. He died in 2011.

Using their computer savvy and connections, makeshift teams are running what they call an “Afghan Underground Railroad” to transport the Afghans to the U.S. and get them resettled.

“David is actually supporting us still,” said Dost, 52, who works in private security and is starting an import-export business with Saltzman’s help. “He’s become my brother. My family was in danger and he is the one reason we are in Portland.”

Saltzman, a loan portfolio trader in Portland, said that the two spoke and face-timed regularly before Dost came to the U.S. “We developed a very good friendship. It was beyond the faceless individual you see on TV,” Saltzman, said. “He became my friend who is in Afghanistan and is in a very unfortunate situation.

“It was really how could I not get Wasi out. At least I can try because how could I live with myself if I hadn’t tried.”

Saltzman was on his own in his mission for a while. “Then, you start reaching out and you’re sending emails and calling people. Everyone is there to help.”

The U.S. government has been of little help with the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program that has quietly fallen victim to deadlock in the U.S. Congress. Other options outside of the SIV suffer from long wait times and tight caps on the number of applicants admitted.

“Our government then and now has really dropped the ball,” Saltzman said. “All these men and women that had served in Afghanistan for over 20 years and had worked with our military side by side, were left behind.”

“The processing of Afghan allies, over 70,000 of them, has basically been handfuls at a time,” Saltzman said. “If you look at when Ukraine went to war, 300,000 were allowed into the U.S. right away. So, there’s a huge hold up.”

The Afghanis had military clearance and are still getting “sandbagged by the State Department. It’s incredibly frustrating.”

Saltzman said the U.S. is biased in favor of refugees that are Caucasian. “I think the administration is trying to make this whole thing disappear.”

Saltzman, like many of the volunteers, forked out their own money to help the Afghan families fleeing persecution from the Taliban. “We were putting up safe houses and feeding these people with money coming out of everybody’s pockets,” Saltzman said.

“Afghans put their lives on the line and then to basically be abandoned by the administration. You get phone calls that the Taliban came in and decapitated a wife in front of the kids. You see the suicide rate that shot up and you don’t have to guess why. It’s pretty straightforward.

“It was amazing and heartfelt and also at times heartbreaking to see there’s still a lot of folks that are just stuck and dealing with horrific situations where they’re being hunted.”

Saltzman will do whatever it takes and is grateful for the communications technology and volunteers who help Afghanis get out. “I started thinking about the Jews and Nazi Germany. What if they had the Internet back then and the communication systems that we have now?

Saltzman is also involved with the veterans organization, Marine for Life. The group helps Marines find employment after their enlistment period ends. The organization also makes companies aware of the rights of their employees who are reservists.

Saltzman is working to bring Dost’s brother and his family to the U.S. They now live in Pakistan.

“I feel like I’ve gained a brother,” Saltzman said of Dost. “He’s very wonderful and compassionate. His whole family is.”

Of Saltzman, Dost said, “He shows to everyone that the Muslims and Jews cannot only be friends, but they can be my blood brother.”

To help allies who are trapped in Afghanistan, visit the veterans volunteer group: moralcompassfederation.org



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