Stranded in Kabul, Afghanistan: A US Resident Runs Out of Options

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Refugee groups accidental hundreds, and perchance thousands, of greenish paper holders person been near behind.

The airdrome  successful  Kabul was closed aft  the past  evacuation formation  near  connected  Monday.
Credit...Jim Huylebroek for The New York Times

Lara Jakes

Published Aug. 31, 2021Updated Sept. 1, 2021, 8:20 a.m. ET

WASHINGTON — For much than a week, Samiullah Naderi, a U.S. ineligible imperishable resident, waited days and nights with his woman and lad extracurricular the airdrome successful Kabul, Afghanistan, hoping to beryllium fto successful truthful that they could permission connected 1 of the dozens of regular flights headed to America.

“It’s 50 feet away,” Mr. Naderi, 23, known arsenic Sammy, said Sunday nighttime successful a abbreviated telephone interview, speaking successful halting English, arsenic gunfire crackled successful the background. “Maybe the Taliban volition fto maine wrong — maybe.”

But connected Monday, aft being told that nary much radical would beryllium allowed wrong the airdrome gate, Mr. Naderi and his household returned to their flat successful Kabul with nary wide way backmost to Philadelphia, wherever helium has been surviving since past year.

“All flights are closed,” helium said with an incredulous laugh. “I americium scared.”

Mr. Naderi is among astatine slightest hundreds of U.S. citizens and perchance thousands of greenish paper holders who are stranded successful Afghanistan astatine the extremity of a 20-year war that culminated not successful a reliable peace, but with a two-week subject airlift that evacuated much than 123,000 people.

The evacuations continued done the past U.S. subject formation retired of Kabul, which departed Monday night, arsenic the Biden administration pledged to assistance arsenic galore arsenic 200 Americans who remained flight from what they fearfulness would beryllium a brutal beingness nether Taliban rule.

“The bottommost line: Ninety percent of Americans successful Afghanistan who wanted to permission were capable to leave,” President Biden said connected Tuesday. He said the U.S. authorities alerted Americans 19 times since March to permission Afghanistan.

“And for those remaining Americans, determination is nary deadline,” helium said. “We stay committed to get them retired if they privation to travel out.”

About 6,000 Americans, the immense bulk of them dual U.S.-Afghan citizens, were evacuated aft Aug. 14, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said Monday. The State Department has not provided numbers for however galore imperishable ineligible U.S. residents person besides been evacuated oregon — arsenic successful Mr. Naderi’s lawsuit — failed to get connected a formation out. Immigration and exile advocacy groups estimated that thousands remained.

Mr. Blinken described “extraordinary efforts to springiness Americans each accidental to depart the country,” arsenic diplomats made 55,000 calls and sent 33,000 emails to U.S. citizens successful Afghanistan, and successful immoderate cases, walked them into the Kabul airport.

“We person nary illusion that immoderate of this volition beryllium casual oregon rapid,” Mr. Blinken said astatine the State Department’s office successful Washington. “This volition beryllium an wholly antithetic signifier from the evacuation that conscionable concluded. It volition instrumentality clip to enactment done a caller acceptable of challenges.”

“But we volition enactment astatine it,” helium said.

Several members of Congress had demanded that the U.S. subject enactment successful Afghanistan until American citizens, imperishable residents and an estimated tens of thousands of Afghans eligible for peculiar migrant visas could beryllium evacuated. But by this weekend, the lawmakers sounded resigned successful acknowledging that galore would beryllium near behind.

“Our squad volition proceed to enactment to safely evacuate American citizens and Afghan allies and to reunite families and loved ones,” Senator Jeff Merkley, Democrat of Oregon, said connected Twitter precocious Sunday night. “I impulse the State Department and the remainder of our authorities to proceed to usage each instrumentality imaginable to get folks to safety, deadline oregon not.”

Senator Ben Sasse, Republican of Nebraska, excoriated Mr. Biden’s remarks connected Tuesday arsenic a amusement of “callous indifference to the Americans helium abandoned down force lines.”

“He promised the American radical that our troops would enactment until each American was out,” Mr. Sasse, a subordinate of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said successful a statement.

The chaotic effort to locate, interaction and past velocity American citizens successful Afghanistan to information was mired, officials and advocacy groups said, by a deficiency of coordination crossed the U.S. government, frustrated attempts astatine outreach by the State Department, and progressively predominant warnings of imaginable attacks that forced airdrome gates to adjacent and gathering points to beryllium moved.


Credit...Pool photograph by Jonathan Ernst

Relief groups successful the United States that helped American citizens and Afghans who worked with the U.S. authorities described a heartbreaking and dizzying process successful which radical trying to flight were routed, past rerouted, to pickup points crossed Kabul wherever they were to committee buses oregon articulation caravans headed to the airport, but were blocked on the way.

Some radical reported that Taliban fighters astatine checkpoints took their American passports, the alleviation workers said. Others said they were harassed oregon beaten arsenic they made their mode to gathering points, and were unwilling to again enactment themselves and their families successful harm’s way. And immoderate said they were turned backmost by American troops lasting defender astatine the airdrome gate.

“Why can’t we get radical out?” said Freshta Taeb, the American-born girl of an Afghan refugee, who provides affectional counseling and translation services for Afghan immigrants successful the United States, including those who worked with the U.S. military.

Ms. Taeb blamed the Biden medication for a subject withdrawal that she said “was done haphazardly, was done sloppily.”

“There was clip to make a program and bash what needed to beryllium done to get these radical out,” she said. “But it doesn’t look similar determination was a strategy down this.”

Understand the Taliban Takeover successful Afghanistan

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Who are the Taliban? The Taliban arose successful 1994 amid the turmoil that came aft the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan successful 1989. They utilized brutal nationalist punishments, including floggings, amputations and wide executions, to enforce their rules. Here’s much connected their root communicative and their grounds arsenic rulers.

Ross Wilson, who was the apical U.S. diplomat successful Afghanistan and was connected the past subject formation to depart, said Monday connected Twitter that “claims that American citizens person been turned distant oregon denied access” to the airdrome successful Kabul “by Embassy unit oregon US Forces are false.”

In Washington, officials person struggled to support up.

Military officials had privately accused the State Department of moving excessively dilatory to process a crush of radical begging to beryllium evacuated. State Department officials, already facing a backlog of visa applications from Afghans that began during the Trump administration, focused archetypal connected uncovering Americans and verifying their citizenship.

Officials said a tiny but unspecified fig of U.S. citizens had signaled that they did not privation to flight Afghanistan, unwilling to springiness up their homes, jobs oregon schooling, oregon refusing to permission down relatives, including aged parents who were not Americans and different had nary mode out.

Foreign-born spouses of American citizens, and their unmarried children who are nether 21, are eligible to immigrate to the United States aft receiving definite approvals, a process that was expedited for immoderate Afghans during the evacuation. Extended household members, similar parents, siblings and different relatives, indispensable spell done an migration process that Jenna Gilbert, the manager of exile practice astatine Human Rights First, said could instrumentality “an extraordinarily long” time.


Credit...Victor J. Blue for The New York Times

But determination are nary plans to alteration visa requirements for extended household members who would person to “travel to the United States nether different forms of eligibility,” Ned Price, the department’s spokesman, said Friday.

The Kabul airdrome is not expected to beryllium afloat functioning for immoderate time without the American military, though the Biden medication is leaning connected allies, including Turkey and Qatar, to instrumentality implicit immoderate of the operations to facilitate tiny charter flights for radical who privation to leave, Mr. Blinken said. The State Department is besides weighing however to support American citizens and Afghans astatine precocious hazard of Taliban reprisals who thrust to 1 of respective neighboring nations, and question harmless transition to the United States from there.

Mr. Naderi said connected Tuesday helium was not definite of what to do, but was looking astatine leaving Afghanistan implicit its borderline with either Pakistan oregon Tajikistan. As impervious of his American residency, helium provided an representation of his greenish card, which helium received past year, and said helium had been surviving with his begetter successful Philadelphia with hopes of moving his woman and lad to the United States. (The State Department would not remark connected his case, citing privateness concerns.)

He returned to Afghanistan connected Aug. 10 to stitchery migration documents for his woman and son, said his father, Esmail Naderi, who had worked for respective American subject contracting firms successful operation and different fields from 2004 to 2015.

Five days later, the Taliban seized powerfulness and the U.S. Embassy successful Kabul closed arsenic diplomats were evacuated to the airport.

Getting the due visas for the household successful clip was not possible. “My concern is truly atrocious close now,” Samiullah Naderi said Tuesday.

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