Agha lives with the anguish of receiving a call from Afghanistan announcing the death of one of her brothers. He knows, as he tells this newspaper, that because he was himself interpreter and cultural advisor to the US Army a decade ago, his four brothers and sisters were in the sights of the Taliban in Kandahar. “The Taliban have already gone there, asking who worked with the coalition, with foreign governments, and they already have a list of people they can kill whenever they want, because now they have power, and they have already threatened them several times.” says Agha, who asks that only the nickname given him by the American soldiers with whom he worked alongside be used
with elbow between 2010 and 2011, and that they helped him emigrate to Texas as a refugee.
Agha’s family drama is common in Afghanistan today. Since the withdrawal began, the US and its allies evacuated 124,000 people, the vast majority of whom were Afghan nationals. Some 63,000 are currently on allied military bases waiting to formally emigrate to the US as refugees. The humanitarian organization International Rescue Committee maintains, after analyzing the official figures, that since 2001 more than 300,000 Afghan civilians have helped the US armed forces and therefore have the right to apply for a special type of visa as asylees. More of 200,000 were left to their own devices in Afghanistan when the US completed the withdrawal on August 30.
At the mercy of the Taliban
And it is not only these civilians who are now at the mercy of the retaliation of the Taliban, but also their families and those of those who have managed to emigrate, such as Agha. This young man, who risked his life working for the foreign forces of the Netherlands and France before those of the United States, is particularly hurt by the abandonment in which Afghans now find themselves. He saw other interpreters die in 2010 before his eyes, in an attack in the province of Uruzgan, and he lived with the trauma of knowing, as he says today, that there were bullets with his name written on them. In 2011, at 23, Agha stopped working for the Army and studied, with the idea of emigrating. Soldiers helped him apply for a visa, which he did in 2014. He only got the permit a year ago. I thought then that the US would continue to shore up democracy in its country.
«When the politicians made those decisions, why didn’t they think about this whole generation that has sacrificed so much, that believed in what they were promised, and that now discovers that there is no future, no hope? I am really confused. It’s such an overwhelming failure that I can’t describe it, and I can’t stop thinking that because of my work there are bullets with my family’s name on them, ”says Agha today, who works in a supermarket and is getting her driver’s license cast.
The truth is that the American bureaucracy is slow, especially in consular matters. And there are politicians, especially Republicans, who have expressed serious doubts about whether it is appropriate to open the doors to so many Afghans, fearful of their creed and culture. It’s not that the doors just open. Most of the evacuated civilians are waiting today in bases -in Qatar, Germany, Spain, USA- for the immigration service to make an in-depth analysis of their records and accept them as refugees, or not.
Meanwhile, those soldiers those Afghans helped mobilize to return the favor. In total 800,000 American soldiers have passed through Afghanistan in 20 years of war. And as it says Bryan Escobedo, a former sergeant in the Marine Corps, many consider these interpreters “as soldiers as we are.” Today Escobedo, who served in Iraq, works for Combined Arms, a war veterans’ assistance organization from Houston, Texas, which has set up a support and reception network for interpreters and other military employees during the evacuation from Afghanistan.
“We see them and treat them as equals to us. They are military veterans. And we have made our networks available to you », says Escobedo. Combined Arms has assisted 163 Afghans offering them accommodation, furniture, food and other essential help to start a new life. Escobedo regrets, however, that his help should only be limited to the interpreters, and not to their families, due to visa limitations. “They are at risk, and that is very worrying, but our hands are tied,” he says.
To many Afghans who were already in the United States, the withdrawal ordered by Donald Trump and executed by Joe Biden it plunged them into a frenzy to get family and friends out. Baktash Ahadi was able to help three cousins and their families, who are already in Qatar, Germany and the US Ahadi immigrated to the US in 1986, but later, in 2010, he served in Afghanistan as an interpreter for the Army, together with his father . “Many Afghans I know are working tirelessly in the US, in Canada, in Germany, around the world, to get their families out. We are exhausting all the resources at our disposal, to try to get relatives on airplanes, “he says.
After the military evacuation, these Afghan civilians now try to travel to places like Mazar-e Sarif, north, or crossing to Pakistan to get a place on flights that transport them somewhere in the West where they can request asylum.
Ahadi, who is already a US citizen and has served as the director of the US State Department’s Afghan familiarization program, regrets that “the United States of America.” make a deal with the Taliban to get out of Afghanistan without worrying about being loyal and honest with his promises to the Afghan people, especially those who worked for him. ” “Everything points to,” he adds, “that the US has not been or is not interested in helping these people who sacrificed so much.”