'Catastrophic': Bay Area nonprofit founders growing desperate to rescue Afghan employees in Kabul

The group is now turning to President Biden for help, and sent House Speaker Nancy Pelosi a letter asking for assistance.

ByCornell W. Barnard KGO logo
Friday, August 27, 2021
Bay Area nonprofit desperate to rescue Afghan employees in Kabul
The situation in Kabul is growing more dire for Bay Area-based non-profit Roots of Peace, that's been helping Afghan farmers thrive for decades.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The situation for a Bay Area nonprofit organization is growing more tense by the day.

Roots of Peace is trying to evacuate dozens of its at-risk Afghan employees from Kabul, but is finding it difficult. U.S. officials are now offering assistance.

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Following the attack at the Kabul airport that killed more than a dozen service members and dozens of Afghans, the situation is growing more dire for Bay Area-based nonprofit Roots of Peace, which has been helping Afghan farmers thrive for decades.

Its founders, Heidi and Gary Kuhn, are not giving up trying to rescue dozens of their employees.

"Special greetings to our Afghan staff. We are here in Istanbul, Turkey. We extend heartfelt concern during this catastrophic period," said Heidi Kuhn in a taped statement.

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The Kuhn's taped the message from Istanbul, where they are working to evacuate workers. They say Taliban security have asked for the names of its staff members while they are working with the new government and getting staff paid.

"We've figured out how to make payroll, in process you'll soon have that. The next few weeks will have lots of changes for all of us, we need to figure out the new environment," said Gary Kuhn.

The Kuhns have appealed to President Joe Biden for help and sent House Speaker Nancy Pelosi a letter asking for assistance.

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We tried to talk with Pelosi after an event in San Francisco but she left quickly, without discussing the situation in Afghanistan.

A short time later, ABC7 got this statement from Pelosi's office which said in part:

"The Speaker raised the need to evacuate Roots of Peace workers directly with Secretary of State Blinken, Secretary of Defense Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Milley during a recent house member call, in addition to working diligently with the departments of state and defense."

But just getting near the airport can be terrifying. A former military interpreter from the Bay Area, who chose to remain anonymous, told about his experience, where he thought he'd be killed.

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"I had a gun pointed in my face four times, I held up my visa and passport saying don't shoot me, don't shoot me."'

The San Francisco Archdiocese was tweeting support for Afghanistan and Roots of Peace and offering prayers in a special service on Friday.

On Thursday, Heidi Kuhn got a call from Representative Nancy Pelosi's office, offering its assistance going forward.