SAN DIEGO (KGTV) – A San Diego man spent months trapped in Afghanistan with his wife following the U.S. withdrawal from Kabul. On Friday, he got the chance to meet the person who helped his family escape the Taliban-controlled country.
These days, 30-year-old Prince Wafa’s biggest concern is running a 7-Eleven franchise in San Diego. That’s a welcome change.
“Being back home, I definitely feel relief after all the problems we’ve been through,” Wafa said.
Born in Afghanistan, Wafa served as a translator for U.S. forces. Afterward, he settled in San Diego, became a U.S. citizen in 2019, and applied for a visa for his wife to join him from Afghanistan.
Then last year, the U.S. started withdrawing forces from the country. His wife’s application stalled. The Taliban went on the offensive and started capturing territory.
Feeling powerless in San Diego, Wafa boarded a flight to Afghanistan to help rescue his wife. He arrived a few weeks before the Taliban seized Kabul.
They were forced into hiding, fearful that his service to the U.S. mission would make his family a target.
“We’re hiding from them, not to get caught. You could see them from your windows with their AK-47, running around,” he said. “That situation was absolutely stressful.”
The final U.S. military evacuation flight left on August 31. Wafa and his wife couldn’t get on it. They were stranded, along with hundreds of other Americans.
The 30-year-old called everyone he could, leaning on fellow veterans for connections and advice. Eventually, he placed a call to San Diego Congressman Darrell Issa.
“I receive a call from Congressman Issa directly on my cell phone, and he said, ‘Prince, I promise we will not stop working until that 858 number is a local San Diego number,’” Wafa said. “And he made this promise, and he was calling me every step of the way.”
With help from the congressman and his staff, Wafa and his wife were finally able to board a flight to Qatar in late October, then to the U.S. on December 1.
On Friday, Congressman Issa and Wafa met for the first time at Wafa’s 7-Eleven franchise – the piece of the American dream to which Wafa and his wife were so eager to return.
“For all of us who served in the military, who know our partners in Afghanistan and Iraq were so important, it’s great to be able to give back to them,” Congressman Issa said. “Prince Wafa is everything that’s good about America and everything that’s good about immigrants who gave to our country during our time in Afghanistan, but also aspire to what we’re dealing with today: a small businessperson succeeding.”
Congressman Issa’s office facilitated the departure of dozens of people from Afghanistan, ABC News reported. In an interview Friday, Issa said the U.S. should ensure there aren’t similar problems evacuating refugees from Ukraine.
“As we have over a million refugees that have already poured out of that country of 43 million, I think we have to say what did we learn in Afghanistan? How do we make sure it doesn’t happen again?” Issa said. “We need to look at lessons learned, make changes where we can.”
As for Wafa, his journey to the American dream has reached a happy chapter, but not the ending. “I’m still trying to help people to come home,” he said.
Wafa says his mission now is to help others with U.S. ties still stuck in Afghanistan.