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big target Ex-US soldier now based in Ireland pleads for Afghan interpreter and family to be saved

Veteran makes it his mission to help the man and his young family

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Phil Nannery was sent to Afghanistan in 2011

Phil Nannery was sent to Afghanistan in 2011

Phil Nannery was sent to Afghanistan in 2011

An Irish-based US veteran has vowed to make it his mission to help an Afghan interpreter and his young family escape to safety from the Taliban.

Irish-American Phil Nannery (34) has formally appealed to the US government to observe the "debt of honour" owed to those Afghans who risked their lives to help the Allied mission in Afghanistan since 2001. He also hopes to appeal to both the Irish and UK governments.

Ireland has vowed to accept almost 200 Afghan refugees.

Foreign Minister Simon Coveney indicated Ireland hopes to accept many more, with the emphasis on those threatened by the Taliban, including women, human rights workers and interpreters.

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A US Marine plays with a child during an evacuation at Kabul airport

A US Marine plays with a child during an evacuation at Kabul airport

A US Marine plays with a child during an evacuation at Kabul airport

 

Mr Nannery, who is based in Cork, said it was very emotional to realise that men he called friends are now living in daily fear of Taliban vengeance.

He served in the US National Guard from 2007 to 2013 and completed tours as an infantryman in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

In Afghanistan, he befriended an Afghan interpreter nicknamed 'Rocky'.

"Almost all of the interpreters there had loved ones killed by the Taliban," said Mr Nannery.

"They risked their lives to serve alongside us. They were incredibly brave and went through the same daily dangers that we did."

Rocky - who Mr Nannery does not want identified beyond his nickname - grew close to the US troops because of his love of American culture and music.

Now in his 30s, Rocky has been desperate since 2018 to get his wife and children out of Afghanistan as he feared the growing strength of the Taliban.

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"My mission now is to help Rocky get to safety. I don't care which country he goes to - so long as he, his wife and three children are safe and out of the reach of the Taliban."

He would ideally like Rocky to be offered refugee status in Ireland or the US.

"That is why I am appealing to the Irish Government and the authorities in the US and UK to do something to help these people. They risked their lives for us and I believe we owe them a debt of honour.

"We cannot leave them to the mercy of the Taliban."

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US Marine comforts an infant

US Marine comforts an infant

US Marine comforts an infant

 

Mr Nannery was brought up in Virginia in the US but his family hail from Roscommon. He regularly holidayed in Ireland as a youngster.

After a 2009 tour in Iraq, he was sent to Afghanistan in 2011 as an infantryman.

He served alongside a 100-man team at a remote Afghan firebase, comprising 20 US special forces personnel, 10 US Army National Guard troops and 70 Australian soldiers.

Rocky was one of several interpreters at the remote firebase. He endured all the same hardships and risks as the Allied soldiers, ranging from insurgent attacks to roadside bombs.

"We later became friends on Facebook and I signed a letter for him three years ago to the US State Department supporting his plea to be allowed to bring his family out of Afghanistan.

"But it was caught up in red-tape hell for the past three years.

"Rocky has a big target sign hanging over his head." 

Mr Nannery lives with his Irish wife, Deirdre, in Cork and works in the recruitment sector. He is proud to be an Afghan veteran and has maintained contact with those he served alongside.

"The past week has been an emotional roller-coaster but one emotion I have not experienced is regret - I would do it all over again if I could.

"Rocky has texted me saying he would too."

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