Afghanistan’s first female pilot, Capt. Niloofar Rahmani, has applied for asylum in the U.S., citing worsening security conditions, harassment by male colleagues and no pay.
Rahmani’s ascension to pilot in 2013 was widely hailed in Washington, D.C., where she received a woman of courage award from the White House in 2015 and was personally praised by First Lady Michelle Obama.
“I decided to join the military to be an example for others,” Rahmani told The Wall Street Journal in 2015.
Throughout her time in the military, Rahmani and her family faced serious death threats from the Taliban for daring to join the traditionally male field. Rahmani’s father had to go into hiding to avoid being killed as a reprisal, and she later started to reconsider her status as the Taliban began making unprecedented gains across the country.
The Pentagon’s most recent assessment of the U.S. effort in Afghanistan says the government only definitively controls approximately 70 percent of the country. The Taliban have made unprecedented gains in the fight against the Afghan security forces.
The terrorist group inflicted historic casualties on Afghan forces, with estimates at nearly 18 men dying per day. Nine-hundred Afghan soldiers were killed in August alone, and recruitment rates likely will not be able to backstop the bleeding.
“Things are getting worse and worse,” Rahmani lamented to The New York Times. She continued, “things are not changing.” Eventually the Afghan government even stopped paying Rahmani’s salary, despite earmarks from the U.S. government for funding.
Rahmani applied for asylum while currently stationed in the U.S. undergoing flight training. The Afghan National Security Forces vehemently denied Rahmani’s claims and urged the U.S. government not to grant her asylum.
“I am sure she lied by saying she was threatened, just to win the asylum case,” Afghan Gen. Mohammad Radmanish told TheNYT. He continued, “We request from our American friends and government to reject her asylum case and send her back, because knowing the truth, Captain Rahmani’s life isn’t at risk at all.”
“Her visibility served on one hand as a source of inspiration, but on the other hand as an irritant to those who were not progressively minded,” a U.S. Army Gen. who served with Rahmani in 2014.
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