Holland contractor works to get US ally out of Afghanistan

Ottawa County

HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — Sieyal Mohammed Alam’s desperation is evident.

You can hear it in his voice as he talks with Fred VanAntwerp, a former contractor from Holland who worked with Alam in Afghanistan.

“I’m living in very bad situation,” Alam, still in Afghanistan, told VanAntwerp in a call Friday. “For the last three, four weeks, it’s very, very dangerous. So many people have been killed.”

Alam is among the countless Afghans who helped the U.S. government despite constant threats from the Taliban. Now, with American troops set to fully withdraw within days, those allies face an imminent threat from a rapidly advancing Taliban.

“There are so many of them that are just left in a lurch,” Van Antwerp said.

Van Antwerp has been a globetrotting consultant helping countries around the world, including Afghanistan, set up governments similar to ours. Alam was recruited by Van Antwerp during his time as a supervisor for the Afghanistan Social Outreach Program, an effort by U.S. and private subcontractors to help Afghans set up a functioning local governments beginning in the spring of 2010.

A still image of Fred VanAntwerp talking about Sieyal Mohammed Alam.

“There was no police force. The only thing Afghans did at the time that I was there is that they would retaliate against each other,” Van Antwerp said.

Alam and the efforts of the Afghanistan Social Outreach Program had started to see signs of success — then the U.S. began to reduce its presence in Afghanistan. The Taliban filled the power vacuum.

Like other allies, Alam and his family now move from home to home to avoid capture and threat of murder by the Taliban for their cooperation with the U.S.

“He’s always been known as somebody who works for Western governments and tries to help. The Taliban is just not interested in people like that. They think they’re really working against them,” VanAntwerp said. “They’re coming after people like Seiyal. They’ll get them. They’ll either imprison them or they’ll kill them.”

Van Antwerp said Alam’s request for a Special Immigration Visa, the same visa that helped Rahim Haidary, the Afghan interpreter befriended by a retired U.S. Army sergeant from the Grand Haven area, and his family make it to Canada, has been approved. It’s now a waiting game to get the final details worked out and get Alam stateside.

Van Antwerp has reached out to the state’s congressional delegation to push the visa through. So far, he’s had no success.

News 8 reached out to both the U.S. Department of State and local members of the congressional delegation to find out what they’re doing to expedite special visas, including Alam’s. The State Department said visa records are confidential.

While not commenting directly on Alam’s visa, the offices of U.S. Rep. Peter Meijer, R-Grand Rapids, and Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, sent statements on their commitment to pushing the visas through.

Van Antwerp sees helping Alam and others like him as a moral imperative for the U.S.

“If we just abandon people, it’s bad on us,” he said.

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