Mohammed and his family, a wife and five children, waited for hours to reach a Taliban checkpoint outside the airport. He presented identification papers that included his U.S. Social Security card and a Texas driver’s license, both acquired during two training periods at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, more than ten years. does.
It hit a wall of hostility.
“The Taliban have stopped everyone, including me,” said Mohammed, who is identified only by his name to protect him from possible Taliban reprisals. “When they saw the American documents, they wanted to tear them all. But my wife yelled at them. He did not allow them to tear up the documents. “
His wife’s courageous move saved the documents. But the Taliban ordered Mohammed and his family to sit on the side of the road, which they did for hours.
That evening, while they were still there, a suicide bomber detonated his explosives nearby, killing 13 American soldiers and more than 100 Afghans.
The bombing was the last straw in a series of events that convinced Mohammed that it was too risky to try to make it through the Kabul airport.
“We left Kabul because we cannot live there. The Taliban are looking for us, “said Mohammed, who spoke to NPR on his cell phone from northern Afghanistan, where he and his family are now in hiding.
He is now part of a group of about 20 families, more than 100 people in all, who have traveled quietly by bus to the northern part of the country in hopes of finding a way out.
During the bus ride, the men wore the same all-encompassing burkas as the women, so the Taliban didn’t stop and search them.
All families have members who were part of the collapsed army of Afghanistan. Many, like Mohammed, were instructors at the National Military Academy in Kabul.
Another former instructor is Wazhma, also identified by a single name for her safety. He says families are constantly changing positions.
“One night we stay in one place, the next night we stay in another place. It’s so dangerous for us, “Wazhma said, even on his cell phone.
Many Afghans do not trust the promises of the Taliban
Taliban leaders say the group will not punish Afghans who have worked with the Americans and are encouraging them to stay. The Taliban also say they will not prevent Afghans from leaving the country if they so wish.
But many Afghans do not believe the Taliban and say the reality on the ground is turning out to be very different from the statements of the group’s leaders.
Mohammed said the Taliban recently picked him up from his home in Kabul, even though he wasn’t there at the time.
“The Taliban entered my house to look for me,” said Mohammed. “My children have seen the Taliban and they are very, very afraid of these bearded men.”
Mohammed’s five children are between the ages of 3 and 15, he said.
Meanwhile, Wazhma says there is no easy way out of the country. The US military airlift is over. There are no commercial flights, at least for now. And neighboring countries mostly keep most Afghans out.
“All borders are now closed,” Wazhma said. “It’s so difficult. We can’t sleep at night. What will happen in the morning? “
Mohammed and Wazhma are both firmly rooted in Afghanistan. They had no intention of leaving until the Taliban invaded the country within days, occupying the capital on August 15.
As they expected to stay in their homeland, Mohammed and Wazhma had not applied for a special visa for US immigrants, a program for Afghans who have worked with the US military or government.
They changed their minds and applied when the Taliban entered Kabul. The Biden administration says it will continue to process visa applications, but it’s unclear how long it will take, especially now that the US military and diplomats have left the country. The US Embassy in Kabul is closed and operations have been moved to Doha, Qatar for now.
“The Biden administration has a moral obligation to provide a full account: What is the exact number of Americans trapped in Afghanistan? What is the exact number of legal permanent residents? How many SIV allies? ” said Senator Ben Sasse, a Republican from Nebraska.
An American effort to get families out
Lark Escobar, who lives in San Antonio, is working with an informal group of fellow Americans who are urgently seeking to help these Afghan families get out. He has known many Afghans since he served as an academic advisor at the National Military Academy in Kabul a decade ago.
“They are afraid. They are hiding. They have no money, ”said Escobar, who is in frequent contact with the group. “And the fear that is very legitimate is that the hotels and safe houses they are currently hiding in will hand them over to the Taliban for failure to pay their bills.”
Mohammed says families feel trapped.
“We don’t know what’s going on,” he said. “We are just looking for any kind of help. Everyone is afraid. They are all nervous ».
[ https://www.rocetoday.com/afghanistan-millions-of-afghans-flee-their-country-in-fearful-of-the-taliban/ https://d26toa8f6ahusa.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/30214746/a-quiet-place-part-2-bigs-16.pdf