Over the weekend, the Taliban made significant advances in Afghanistan, including an invasion of the capital city, Kabul, and of the presidential palace, causing the president to flee the country.
Much of the Taliban’s gains are a result of the U.S. military withdrawal from the region. But as U.S. troops left Afghanistan, allies loyal to the United States’ efforts remain at risk on the ground. Afghans who worked as translators, contractors, construction workers or in other occupations helped the U.S. military function for two decades in the Middle East. But due to procedural backlogs and bureaucratic failings, thousands of Afghan allies to the U.S. feel abandoned and placed in danger as the Taliban takes power.
As of Sunday, the U.S. had evacuated over 2,000 Afghans eligible through the Special Immigrant Visa program, but some estimates suggest that over 70,000 Afghan allies and family members remain. On Monday morning, the Deseret News spoke via telephone with three of these Afghans and asked them to describe the situation on the ground. Their comments have been edited for length, grammar and clarity. One requested that their name be withheld, while two others requested only to be identified by their first names for fear of retribution.
Name withheld — Kabul, Afghanistan
(Name withheld) spent 10 years as a vehicle contractor for the U.S. military. Special immigrant visa applications were repeatedly rejected because of errors in the recommendation letters from his U.S. supervisors.
The situation here is really critical. We haven’t slept for four or five days, maybe one hour per night. Everything is against our expectations. I mean, it was supposed that the government in Kabul would not collapse. But it did, and everything just diminished overnight. And the Taliban just rushed to the city, to the streets.
I don’t know what the Western countries — what the U.S. — did to us. I really don’t know. If they were in such a rush, why didn’t they proceed to document their allies earlier? We are betrayed. We are trapped. We are waiting behind a closed door for someone to come and haul us outside and execute us in front of our family. This is so terrible. People are horrified. Everyone has a lot of concern and anxieties. We don’t know what’s going on and what’s happening next. But the only thing we know is that we will not survive.
My family was in Kandahar. They managed to move two days before the Taliban took over the city (on Friday). The next day, when they captured Kandahar, the Taliban rushed to my home and they broke the door by bullets and they acquired my property. They were asking my neighbors, ‘Where is (name withheld)?” And they found documents regarding my company with which I was working with the American army. They took my cousin, and we have no news of him being alive or dead. And now I’m in grave danger, and they know more and more about me and my relationship with the U.S. government. So I don’t know what’s going on or what shall happen.
My wife and one kid left for India, as they had visas. I am hiding with my two other children. We are scared, frightened, and threatened behind the door. And it’s terrible. I cannot make the words to explain the real situation. My cousin still is disappeared, and we don’t have any news.
Every other country helped their allies — Canada, the U.K., everyone. But the only country — the superpower — that failed to help their allies survive is the United States of America. I begged. I shouted. I asked. And I told everyone that U.S. government has all our data. They have biometrics. If they really want to get their allies out, they should just make a process and take everyone. But they did not. And they didn’t even talk to our neighboring countries to provide us visas, like Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and other countries.
Now, we are disconnected with the world. We are trapped here and the Taliban is chasing everyone. They are occupying properties. They are taking vehicles from people’s houses. They’re searching for people. And they’re taking people outside and executing them.
Sayed — Kabul, Afghanistan
Sayed has worked as an interpreter for the U.S. military since 2013. He applied for special immigrant visas twice. The first time, he was rejected; the second time, they scheduled an interview at the U.S. embassy for Sept. 21 of this year. Now, the embassy is evacuated.
We lost everything yesterday. The enemy took over Kabul City. In the U.S. embassy, all the personnel were evacuated last night.
I actually don’t know what is going to happen with my special Immigrant visa application. I don’t know. I just wanted to be evacuated ASAP, since the situation has gotten so very bad. I consulted my supervisors, too many of them. They still don’t know what to do. They don’t know who to contact.
Yesterday, some of the high ranking leaders from the Taliban landed at Kabul International Airport and they were escorted to the presidential palace to have a meeting. As of today, the situation completely changed. If we compare from yesterday to today, the Taliban were not permitted or allowed to come inside Kabul City. But last night, they came in, and they took over all the police stations and stationed themselves. Today, they started to go home to home in search of government employees, for those who work for the NGOs and the U.S. government. I don’t know where they will take them. There was a man in our neighborhood who had a construction company; he was contracting with the U.S. government. They took him away. They took all his vehicles that he owned. I saw them from behind the window.
I don’t know anything else about it. People are not walking on the streets. Everybody is staying home and hiding themselves in order not to be caught. This is what we hear: that once they catch somebody that they are going after, they slaughter them and cut them into pieces, if he is a translator or a national Afghan army member or police. Even the security forces, the journalists, the media. All these people are targeted.
I’m sure the Taliban are not capable enough to find every individual who worked for the U.S. government, but they have spies. We have people that have already seen us as U.S sympathizers. And I’m sure that they will report that, “hey, this guy was an interpreter.”
Everybody in Afghanistan, especially in Kabul, is scared. Even civilians are scared. The Taliban members don’t listen. They just do what they want. They’re following just one ideology, which is to kill. That’s it.
Abidullah — Khost, Afghanistan
Abidullah worked for two years as a construction worker on a U.S. military base. He passed both special immigrant visa interviews — the final step in the application process — but with the embassy closed, he sees no way to receive a visa.
I am in huge, dangerous risk. No one cares if I live. I’m so disappointed in the SIV process. Everyone has a lot of problems, here in Afghanistan. Lots of people are still left behind.
I don’t leave my home. The Taliban has surrounded the city. They are firing at people. They are doing animal kind of things. We have huge problems. We cannot have peace with the Taliban. They mark the people who worked for the U.S. troops. Yesterday, my friend was killed by the Taliban.
No one can tell me what to do. A few days ago, I sent an email about my situation to a senator in Washington. I passed both of my interviews. But I never got anything else from the U.S. Embassy, and now it is closed.
We will die. This is our future now. We can’t do anything. We can’t reach Kabul in safety. What should we do? They (the U.S.) never think about our future, our family. They forgot our struggles and everything that we have done for them. Why are they doing this? I am extremely disappointed.