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Afghan general escapes Taliban in Afghanistan and settles in East Tennessee

General Nezamuddin Rahmani served side-by-side with the U.S. military as they fought the Taliban. Now, they've threatened him.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — For 18 years, General Nezamuddin Rahmani served in the Afghan Army. The U.S. military trained Afghans. Their interests were to fight the Taliban. 

Rahmani said he was a decorated soldier, beginning as an operation officer in 2003, then a brigade commander and a general corps commander. 

"We were not expecting this situation will come to Afghanistan," Rahmani said, through a translator. "But unfortunately, that's happened." 

The situation is the collapse of the Afghan Army. In 2021, President Biden announced the U.S. would exit from Afghanistan. Within days, the Taliban took over control of that country and threatened people who worked with the Afghan government. 

"Would you expect the life situation will be good for that kind of person, to stay back in Afghanistan?" Rahmani said. 

The general tried to take his family out of Afghanistan through the Kabul airport. He said he spent days trying to get a flight out. Then he said he saw the explosion which killed U.S. Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss from Knox County. 

"The biggest explosion," General Rahmani said. "Through three lines in front of us. Nobody was alive. All had collapsed on the floor." 

General Rahmani said he hid in Kabul while he tried to find a way out of Afghanistan. Eventually one of his old friends, and a former translator for the U.S. Government named Najma Fazly, helped him out. 

"We passed them from several countries from Afghanistan to other countries to bring them to the United States," Fazly said. 

Fazly said he can't get into specifics on how he got General Rahmani and his family out of Afghanistan, but said he's honored he was able to help the general. 

"I just decided to get out of the country, to save my life and my family's life," General Rahmani said. 

The Concord Baptist Church community and Bridge Refugee services helped General Rahmani's family get to East Tennessee, Fazly said. 

The former Afghan general said he didn't want to leave Afghanistan, but people in Knoxville have helped him and made his family feel welcome. 

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