Do Right by Our Afghan Allies
He’s still waiting, but the Taliban will tell you what happened when you were there, and why you didn’t want to go that way
Even on the quietest days, he risked his life as a combat interpreter for the U.S. military. He said the Taliban followed him and planned to kill him as soon as he started working.
“But by the time they wanted to [carry out the plan] one of the guys who was living in the same building with me informed me,” he says. He was able to escape by climbing through the window. NPR uses his first name for security reasons.
“I know other people — just business owners — who got evacuated, but … I am still waiting. I can’t understand why, I don’t understand this disconnected process,” he says. I’m so frustrated and disappointed at the same time. I never believed that it could happen.
Roman and his family were terrified of the Taliban, so they went for a flight to the Afghanistan airport on August 16, 2021.
Sanaullah’s SIV application was completed — meaning all the documents were accepted and his application was approved — three months ago. He says his U.S. visa interview has been scheduled for next month at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad. Visa interviews take place in neighboring Pakistan because the U.S. shut its embassy in Kabul last year.
An Afghan journalist’s dream of becoming an architect: a challenge facing the Taliban in the government and in the interior ministry, after the Taliban took over
People who worked in the armed forces, as well as activists, journalists, and former employees of the government are all at risk.
She was studying journalism before the Taliban takeover. Because of the Taliban’s ban on female students in most universities, she let go of her dream of becoming a journalist. She believes that she can make it as an architect in Afghanistan because she has shifted her focus to architecture.
She was able to extend the passport she had after asking a family friend to use his connections to help. Now she’s waiting, hoping for her Malaysian visa to be approved. Her studies have been delayed by two years. If she can’t sort out her visa situation, she will lose a third year.
The Afghan Refugees Program: The Status Report of Operation Allies Welcome in the U.S. and the Budget Responsibility of the Afghan Population
In August, some 120 students were in Kabul International Airport about to board a flight to Doha, Qatar. But only the male students were allowed to travel. Taliban authorities held back 60 female students and instructed them to go home.
A student who does not want to be identified because of her activism, was one of the people denied boarding.
The Taliban came and took our tickets, and we were told that we didn’t have a male guardian. “What are you studying?” she asks.
The State Department, the Department of Homeland Security and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services were scrambling to comply with the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Up until now, Afghans could be granted humanitarian parole at the port of entry by Homeland Security. Of the 88,500 Afghan nationals who have been resettled in the U.S. over the past year, most of the 77,000 who were granted humanitarian parole entered this way. That will no longer be allowed.
The US has staff at its embassies in Pakistan, Pakistan, and the United ArabUAE, according to a State Department spokesman. But the visa pipelines for Afghans remain clogged.
Operation Allies Welcome, established to coordinate U.S. government efforts to resettle at-risk Afghan nationals, is ending, and being replaced. “Operation Allies Welcome is a historic whole-of-society effort to resettle our Afghan allies, in communities across the country.” A Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman told NPR that this operation is possible because of partnerships between federal agencies, state and local government, non-profit organizations, and the private sector.
The Afghan Adjustment Act, which was supposed to cut some of the red tape in the immigration process for Afghan evacuees who are already in the US, was not included in the spending bill that passed on Friday. However, the bill did include $3 billion in aid for Afghan resettlement efforts.
The #AfghanEvac Campaign: Stop Telling the Taliban Not to Come to the Frontlines, Arrive to the USA, and Get Back Home
“I try to figure out how to deliver the worst news in the world,” says Azizzada. “That there are 75,000 principal applicants ahead of you. Good luck if you are waiting for years and years of bureaucratic backlog to be fixed.
Like many others, he has called on the White House to cut red tape, and if the U.S. is not going to reopen the embassy in Kabul, to at least allow consular interviews to happen online — but for now, in-person interviews continue for humanitarian parole applications and SIVs, allowing for the collection of biometric data and fingerprints.
The Afghan Adjustment Act is championed by Lindsey Graham, a Republican senator from South Carolina. But others, including Chuck Grassley of Iowa, have refused to support it, citing concerns that the newly arrived Afghans could pose a security threat.
Roughly two dozen former leaders of the US military – including retired chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a former Supreme Allied commander of NATO and several former commanders in Afghanistan – sent a letter to US congressional leaders Saturday evening urging them to act quickly to save Afghan allies who currently run the risk of deportation.
Specifically, the retired generals and admirals are asking congressional leaders to include the Afghan Adjustment Act in the omnibus spending bill, CNN is first to report.
The legislation is not only a moral imperative but also a national security imperative, according to the letter organized by #AfghanEvac.
The signatories include former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, including Joseph Dunford, and naval and Air Force generals, as well as the Supreme Allied Commander of NATO.
The boy’s mother, who is currently in a home with a male chaperone, said that while she could see her children on camera, she couldn’t touch them.
Nearly 18 months after the US military withdrawal, Rahman and his dad, Ahmad Roman, are among perhaps thousands who – after getting out of Afghanistan in the chaotic final days before the Taliban reclaimed control – are still trying to reunite in the United States with loved ones stuck back home.
Afghan families, advocacy groups and attorneys said that the lack of reliable information about the American immigration process was one of the main reasons for staying here.
The US government initially coordinated “evacuation procedures for their parents and add(ed) their name to evacuation flights,” attorney Sanam Ghandehari said. After more than one year, none of my minor clients have been brought back to their parents and there is no hope of reunification in the near future.
The refugees who took the chance to escape might not have known what to expect as some families grew past what the initial application reflected.
It took Roman the better part of a year to even understand which resources might help him bring his wife and daughter to the United States, he told CNN, adding he’s now in touch with a State Department team that is trying to help.
The story of Abdul Mukhtar and his relatives, as they hid in Afghanistan, during a war of secrecy, during the 2021 terror attacks
In any case, it is a race against time, Ghandehari said: “Many Afghans, who served or cooperated with US military, NATO and/or former Afghan government, are living in hiding in Afghanistan. They move frequently to avoid being identified.
“Unfortunately, we have learned about many family members of our Parolee clients who have been arrested, tortured or even killed because of their employment background while waiting to be reunited with their families,” she said.
Abdul Mukhtar feared in late August 2021 the Taliban would come after him and eight relatives. He was married to a law professor at a university. He spoke against radicalism in mosques and taught political science.
He told CNN that they went to the airport to join thousands who tried to wade through the lake into the airport. But it was hot, with no water or food, so Mukhtar paid someone near the airport for space in a home for his wife and child to stay cool.
“I will keep my wife and my son right here, till I come back with news,” he said he told the homeowner before heading back and eventually, from the dirty water, getting the attention of a soldier, who took his hand and pulled him up.
He was told that the security situation was not under control. “We cannot guarantee anything. If you’re trying to find your family, if you’re trying to find your loved one, if you’re trying to join them, this is not a safe place for you to wait.”
At each refugee camp, he offered his translation skills, hoping those in charge would help him quickly move along. At each new camp, he desperately looked for his wife and son, thinking they may have got on a plane out of Afghanistan.
It wasn’t until more than week after he left that Mukhtar finally managed to reconnect with his wife: She was still in Afghanistan, she told him – and pregnant with twins. Soon, several of Mukhtar’s relatives went into hiding together in northern Afghanistan. And later, when his wife gave birth there – with no medical aid – one of the twins died.
A glimmer emerged when Mukhtar’s wife won a spot in the US diversity visa lottery. But with a new child, more work had to be done to update the visa application and get the baby a passport. And still, Mukhtar has no timeline for when his wife and sons can join him.
Roman and Uzair: a desperate man who keeps fighting for his family in the presence of the Taliban – and why she does not want to leave
“I totally lost that faith. But I just keep fighting for nothing,” he said. I am alive because of them. I have no choice. I have to fight for my family.
After a long chase, they realized Uzair had boarded a plane with Roman’s brother-in-law and little Rahman. But by then, Roman’s wife and daughter had been pushed past the gates – and no one would let them through.
As Roman waits for the US immigration papers to process, he doesn’t know if his daughter in Kabul can continue her schooling, he said, since the Taliban changes the rules frequently, sometimes between morning and night.
She said that his wife knows that his two sons have a better life in the U.S. But the reality isn’t always easy to embrace from her side of the video chat.