A former soldier who helped 282 Afghans get New Zealand visas - but who are now stranded - is calling for the Government to urgently adopt a plan to get them out.
"It is heartbreaking," said Ellen Nelson, an engineering officer in the New Zealand Defence Force deployed to Afghanistan for seven months in 2010 and 2011.
Nelson had helped the families of 43 people get visas after they helped the New Zealand military operation, many of whom she had worked with.
They were among roughly 1000 people left behind after the NZDF mission to rescue them was cut short after a terrorist attack at Kabul airport.
"They are still in hiding, in Kabul. It is not safe for them to return to their homes in Bamiyan, and some members of this group have already been harmed, due to their connection with the NZDF.
"They are poor and are running out of money to buy food for their families."
Through a range of contacts and experts, Nelson started work on an extraction plan, which she has shared with the New Zealand Government.
She had been in close contact over the past few weeks with staff at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, but said she was getting nowhere.
She could not share details for safety reasons, but said they were "feasible rescue options and they have already been tried and tested by other nations - we know they can work".
"Of course, there are risks but they pale in comparison to the risks faced by these families in Afghanistan.
"If we don't try to get them out, they face persecution and likely death.
"We have asked, repeatedly, for ministers to meet us or speak to us but, to date, there has been no response.
"This story must end well. It's not the Kiwi way to leave people behind."
An Afghan man trying to get a visa to come to New Zealand had been killed by the Taliban, reports said a week ago..
In August, as the Taliban retook control of Afghanistan after the United States signalled its withdrawal after a 20-year war, the New Zealand Government under pressure expanded the criteria for offering visas to those who had worked with the defence force and were at risk.
Nelson had worked with the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Bamiyan. In her team were five New Zealand soldiers and 15 local tradesmen.
Before the evacuation mission, one of her former Afghan colleagues asked Nelson for help with his visa application.
This grew rapidly to 43 families, a total of 282 people. About a third had been in Nelson's team, with the others employed by the NZDF to do other important roles within the PRT.
They were supposed to be evacuated by the New Zealand rescue operation before it was cut short after the terrorist attack at the airport, which killed at least 170 civilians along with 13 US military troops.
A Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) spokeswoman said yesterday 408 New Zealand citizens, permanent residents and other visa holders have arrived in New Zealand from Afghanistan since the Taliban took control.
Immigration NZ had issued about 400 critical purpose visas, covering about 1100 people. It is unclear how many of those 1100 were part of the group who made it to New Zealand.
Nelson said she had been in contact with many of those left behind regularly and their situation was "heartbreaking".
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said the Government would do all it could to evacuate those remaining and Cabinet had been considering proposals, however little has been said publicly in more than a month about when or how that could occur.
The Herald approached Ardern's office and the office of Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta but neither had responded by deadline.
Ardern on Monday said more information about rescue options would be released soon.
An MFAT spokeswoman said they continued to work on options, including considering proposals from advocates and were closely consulting partner countries.
National MP Mark Mitchell, the former Minister of Defence, had worked 10 years in the Middle East, including Iraq, with his own private security and risk management company, which specialised in getting people out of conflict zones.
He approached Defence Minister Peeni Henare at the end of August to offer to work with him on "alternative options" for rescuing the Afghans and other visa and passport holders left behind, but had heard nothing since.
Mitchell had been working with other groups of experts, including former military staff, government officials and "passionate New Zealanders" who were developing evacuation plans, but all had been ignored by the Government.
"There are people like Ellen, who managed to secure those 282 visas, who have that expertise and on-the-ground knowledge needed."
Mitchell said many other countries had been evacuating people, so too non-governmental organisations.
New Zealand's lack of interest was likely why it was left out of US-led talks on options of evacuating people still trapped in Afghanistan, he said.
"I feel very strongly they have abdicated their responsibility and handed it to international partners. It is incredibly dangerous for those still there, as we are seeing, and we have a moral duty to get them out - it can be done."
Nelson said those she worked with were "wonderful people" and had made huge sacrifices to support the New Zealand mission.
"They helped to keep us safe and dedicated a decade of their lives to working with the NZDF.
"They believed in what we were doing, and wanted to be part of a better future. But because they worked with us, they are now in grave danger from the Taliban."
The Herald understands options could include utilising private contractors, who would work with a "third party network" of local Afghans on the ground who have "real-time intelligence".
Commercial flights into Hamid Karzai International Airport could again become a possibility in the future but it appears a long way off just now.
The most likely options would be secretly ferrying groups or individuals across land borders into other countries – potentially Pakistan, Tajikistan, or Uzbekistan.
• A social media page Helping Afghans Who Helped Kiwis has been set up, and Givealittle page launched by the Afghan Association of New Zealand to help displaced families within Afghanistan with food, clean water and shelter.