Utah family helps stranded Afghans

Sep 13, 2021, 6:39 PM | Updated: Sep 14, 2021, 10:45 am

SALT LAKE CITY — Many vulnerable Afghans can’t find a way out of the country and are now faced with a difficult reality, but a Utah family said it has plans to help extract one Afghan family, who they believe are in real danger.

Eric Eliason served as a chaplain during Operation Enduring Freedom.

During that time, he became close friends with an Afghan soldier, named Taroon, who was also training to be a chaplain.

“He was Muslim and I was a Christian, and yet, we got along great with each other,” said Eliason.

Eliason said he hadn’t heard from Taroon in years, until he received a message from Taroon’s son, who told him the Taliban had murdered his father.

“The Taliban left night letter or threatening letters, threatening to kill his family. He wisely sent them to safety. When the assassination team came, they killed only my friend Taroon,” said Eliason.

Eliason remembered Taroon as a great man, who embodied what he hoped Afghanistan would become.

Taroon’s death left his family vulnerable and they now say they’re on the run.

Like many other Afghans, the family tried to escape on one of the many planes that left from the Kabul airport, but they said they couldn’t get on a manifest.

With all options exhausted, they reached out to Eliason.

“Can’t go into too much detail, but it takes a lot of coordination,” said Eliason.

He and his niece, Andrea Befus, are working on an extraction, involving several forms of transport and many checkpoints.

The Utah team is careful not to expose details of how they plan to move the family out of Afghanistan.

“If you are thinking mission impossible, you are not off,” said Befus. “There are a lot of moving parts. We have people on the ground, we have special ops, we have former military commanders that have vetted our plan. They say it’s a go.”

The team has a network of people in place to move the mother and three teenage children out of harm’s way.

“It’s the sort of thing where in the morning it seems like five miracles have happened, and by the afternoon, all of those have evaporated into mirages.”

Eliason hopes to execute the plan in the next few days or weeks.

He said the family has the proper documentation to seek asylum in the United States.

Learn more about the plan here and how you can help.

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Utah family helps stranded Afghans