Those left in Afghanistan complain of broken US promises

Sep 1, 2021, 10:29 PM | Updated: 10:32 pm

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Even in the final days of Washington’s chaotic airlift in Afghanistan, Javed Habibi was getting phone calls from the U.S. government promising that the green card holder from Richmond, Virginia, his wife and their four daughters would not be left behind.

He was told to stay home and not worry, that they would be evacuated.

Late Monday, however, his heart sank as he heard that the final U.S. flights had left Kabul’s airport, followed by the blistering staccato sound of Taliban gunfire, celebrating what they saw as their victory over America.

“They lied to us,” Habibi said of the U.S. government. He is among hundreds of American citizens and green card holders stranded in the Afghan capital.

Victoria Nuland, undersecretary of state for political affairs, would not address individual cases but said all U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents who could not get evacuation flights or were otherwise stranded had been contacted individually in the past 24 hours and told to expect further information about routes out once those have been arranged.

“We will communicate directly to them personalized instructions on what they should do, when they should do it, and how the United States government feels we are best positioned to help them do that,” added State Department spokesman Ned Price.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken praised the evacuation effort despite the scenes of thousands of people jammed outside the gates at Kabul’s airport. He said between 100 and 200 remained in Afghanistan, promising that any American who wants to leave Afghanistan would be taken out.

For some of those who remain, however, the trauma of trying for nearly two weeks to get onto a U.S. plane is still harrowing.

Habibi, an electrician who has lived in Richmond since 2015 on a special immigration visa, had returned to Afghanistan for a visit on June 22 — the first time his family had been back since 2019. Their return flight was to have been Aug. 31.

About Aug. 18, Habibi said he got an email from the U.S. government saying that his family — all green card holders except for their youngest, who has a U.S. passport — would be evacuated.

Subsequent emails said he should take his family to the airport. He obeyed, but the mad crush of people prevented him from getting near the gate on his first two attempts.

His daughter, Madina, who at 15 has flawless English and serves as the family spokesperson, said she and her younger sister were almost trampled at the airport. The family wrote back, “It’s too dangerous. We can’t go into the crowd,” she said.

The emails kept arriving, saying they should go to the airport, she said.

By Aug. 25, the emails had been replaced by phone calls from Arlington, Virginia, Madina said. The callers, who identified themselves as being from the U.S. Embassy, told the family to stay at home and that the government was aware of their location, she said, speaking for her father.

Habibi said he still made four or five more attempts, even recruiting friends and relatives to wade into the crowd with the family, forming a kind of protective cordon. The youngest of the four girls, Dunya, is 2 and was born in the U.S.

Habibi said that on at least two occasions, he got close enough to the gate that his passport was scanned but was refused entry. He shouted at the U.S. soldiers, waving his documents.

“What does this green card even mean? Nothing. They did nothing,” he said.

Madina, who spoke to most of the callers from Virginia, said she told them the family was from Richmond. Even as the evacuations came to an end, Madina said one caller promised, “We are going to get you out. You are not going to get stuck. Don’t worry. We know where you are.”

Habibi said they even pledged to pick them up in a car.

“They lied. They did nothing,” he said.

Habibi says he hasn’t been threatened by the Taliban and that no one has bothered him but he is still afraid. News stories and horrifying posts on social media have him convinced that the Taliban will kill him, he said, although he admitted he doesn’t know of anyone being targeted.

“I’m just afraid. I follow the news,” he said.

He said he knows of many families, some with U.S. green cards, who remain in Afghanistan.

Madina said Marcia Vigar Perez, a teacher at Dumbarton Elementary, her former school, started a prayer chain for her safe return.

“Every day they call me,” she said.

Another Afghan native who asked to be identified only as Ajmal, fearing retribution, said he, his two brothers and their families — 16 people in all — were granted emergency immigrant visas to be evacuated after another brother in Virginia submitted the paperwork.

Ajmal displayed emails from the U.S. government that said “please make your way to the Hamid Karzai International Airport” and use the Camp Sullivan Gate, not the civilian entrance, although he also was warned that the gate could change daily.

He said he and his relatives went to the airport, but heavy gunfire by the Taliban and the crush of thousands of people sent them back home. On one occasion, he said he received an email telling him and his family they would be picked up at a spot near the airport at 3 a.m. He and his family waited on the street until 9 a.m., but no one came, he said.

His brother Wais, a U.S. citizen living in Virginia, said he had petitioned senators and filled out paperwork to get his family to America.

“I am frustrated and angry” at U.S. officials, Wais said. “All the time they say, ‘We are working on it, we are working on it,’ but then — nothing.”

Associated Press writer Matthew Lee in Washington contributed.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - President Joe Biden speaks about abortion access during a Democratic National Committee even...
Associated Press

Biden’s efforts to protect abortion access hit roadblocks

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration is still actively searching for ways to safeguard abortion access for millions of women, even as it bumps up against a complex web of strict new state laws enacted in the months after the Supreme Court stripped the constitutional right. Looking to seize on momentum following a midterm election […]
23 hours ago
FILE - Insurrectionists loyal to President Donald Trump try to break through a police barrier, Wedn...
Associated Press

Officers to receive Congressional Gold Medals for Jan. 6

WASHINGTON (AP) — Top House and Senate leaders will present law enforcement officers who defended the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 with Congressional Gold Medals on Tuesday, awarding them Congress’s highest honor nearly two years after they fought with former President Donald Trump’s supporters in a brutal and bloody attack. To recognize the hundreds […]
23 hours ago
U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., speaks during a campaign rally at Georgia Tech Monday, Dec. 5, 20...
Associated Press

Warnock or Walker? Georgia runoff to settle last Senate seat

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia voters on Tuesday are set to decide the final Senate contest in the country, choosing between Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican football legend Herschel Walker after a four-week runoff blitz that has drawn a flood of outside spending to an increasingly personal fight. This year’s runoff has lower stakes than […]
23 hours ago
In this image taken from video footage run by China's CCTV, attendees bow during a formal memorial ...
Associated Press

Late Chinese leader Jiang hailed in memorial service

BEIJING (AP) — China’s communist leaders eulogized the late leader Jiang Zemin on Tuesday as a loyal Marxist-Leninist who oversaw their country’s rapid economic rise while maintaining rigid party control over society. President and party leader Xi Jinping praised Jiang in an hour-long address at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People as senior officials and […]
23 hours ago
Associated Press

Today in History: December 6, 13th Amendment is ratified

Today in History Today is Tuesday, Dec. 6, the 340th day of 2022. There are 25 days left in the year. Today’s Highlight in History: On Dec. 6, 1865, the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, abolishing slavery, was ratified as Georgia became the 27th state to endorse it. On this date: In 1790, Congress […]
23 hours ago
A postal worker walks past the Reserve Bank of Australia in Sydney, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022. Australi...
Associated Press

Australia’s central bank raises key interest rate to 3.1%

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Australia’s central bank has raised its benchmark interest rate by a quarter-point to 3.1% as it continues trying to wrestle down inflation. The increase was the bank’s eighth in a row and took the rate to its highest level in 10 years. Still, Australia’s rate hikes have remained relatively modest […]
23 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

(Desert Institute for Spine Care photo)...
DESERT INSTITUTE FOR SPINE CARE

Why DISC is world renowned for back and neck pain treatments

Fifty percent of Americans and 90% of people at least 50 years old have some level of degenerative disc disease.
(Photo via MLB's Arizona Fall League / Twitter)...
Arizona Fall League

Top prospects to watch at this year’s Arizona Fall League

One of the most exciting elements of the MLB offseason is the Arizona Fall League, which began its 30th season Monday.
...
Quantum Fiber

Stream 4K and more with powerful, high-speed fiber internet

Picking which streaming services to subscribe to are difficult choices, and there is no room for internet that cannot handle increased demands.
Those left in Afghanistan complain of broken US promises