It's understood a guard who formerly worked alongside the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) in Afghanistan was shot dead by the Taliban about two weeks ago as hundreds of New Zealand citizens, families and visa holders remain stranded in the war-torn nation.
In August, the Taliban ousted the former government and captured the capital of Kabul, forcing thousands of desperate Afghans to flee the stricken country out of fear for their lives.
The first group of New Zealand citizens and visa holders were evacuated via a commercial flight that month. However, it was later discovered that Afghan nationals who had assisted New Zealand's military ranks, such as translators, had been left behind - despite assurance from the Government that they would be among the first to leave alongside citizens.
Afghan nationals with ties to overseas militaries, governments, or aid agencies are particularly at risk as Taliban militants across Afghanistan retaliate against those who assisted allied forces. Since the Taliban regained control of the nation, there have been multiple reports of violence against not only those who assisted foreign powers, but women and minorities.
The New Zealand Government is now preparing to send a "special representative" to the Middle East to assist with the evacuation of visa holders - but it comes two weeks too late for Mohammad Murad, a man who spent a decade working at a NZDF base in Bamyan. About 11 days ago he was shot and killed in his village bazaar by the Taliban, likely because of that work, according to Stuff.
Parwiz Hakimi, an interpreter who worked for the NZDF in Bamyan during much of that time, told Stuff the 48-year-old had worked as a guard at the New Zealand-run forward operating base Romero in Kahmard for more than 10 years. Hakimi, who now lives in New Zealand, heard from Murad's family that he had been assassinated by the Taliban less than two weeks ago.
Speaking to The AM Show on Monday morning, former Deputy Chief of Army, Chris Parsons, said people like Murad should be remembered as heroes for their courageous work in the face of oppression.
"What they've been doing is standing up to the alternative option, which is oppression of the Taliban. [They've been] working alongside New Zealanders, working for a better future, working to make a life for their families and their country," he said.
"They were doing that alongside us, but now we've gone and they're left in harm's way."
Former Army Captain Dr Ellen Nelson agreed, telling The AM Show there is "definitely more" New Zealand could be doing to save the roughly 1000 New Zealanders and New Zealand visa holders thought to be still in Afghanistan.
"We definitely believe if the Government puts the right resources into this, so its Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, but also appropriate representatives from the other Government departments, along with working with volunteer experts, such as Chris [Parsons] and other people in our team, we can in a collaborative manner co-create solutions and save these people."
While Parsons said he isn't able to divulge the specifics of possible evacuation plans, rescue efforts would need to take place either via air or by land. Citizens and visa holders typically would require a passport in order to leave Afghanistan, he said, however there have been instances where families have escaped with just the head of the household having the correct documentation.
"That's becoming more and more tricky as the Taliban takes more control over their borders," he said.
"There's a lot of Afghans helping others get out. We have to work through diplomatic channels, we have to work as best as we can with other foreign governments and NGOs. It may take some people to go in, obviously, that needs to be negotiated now with the Taliban, but by and large, there's a lot we can do to facilitate outside of Afghanistan and from neighbouring countries as well."
Parsons said further evacuations are a matter of urgency as winter approaches.
"The economy's crashed, there's not enough money for food, these people are in hiding - they need to pay for the shelter they're in, they've lost their possessions.
"Fundamentally, there's a humanitarian crisis developing, notwithstanding the other pressures as the Taliban become more and more sophisticated at methodically searching for those who have worked with foreign militaries."
"This needs to be done with absolute urgency," Nelson agreed. "Their lives are at risk."