“I have never felt so hopeless. And helpless.” -last message from an Afghan colleague

A recurring event happens to many veterans each week in the U.S. and in other NATO nations—the daily calls for help from Afghans by text, email, and social media messaging. I want to share what that looks like for those who are not experiencing it. This is an actual person that I will make anonymous so that no one is placed in further danger as her family hides from the Taliban-Haqqani terrorist network.

Who is being targeted?

Most requests for help begin with a short biography of the person in danger and then details about their family and security situation. This week Mariam Kazimi, a former provincial deputy governor reached out to me on behalf of her endangered family. Mariam has been able to evacuate, but she held a hi-profile job in the security sector as well, and her family is now being targeted in revenge for her roles. She explained how her three brothers and their families are in danger and that is has been difficult to get them evacuated.

Mariam sent me some photos of her family’s homes where the men were detained and beaten and the women left fearing for their lives. The reason for the break-in and torture was simply that her family had been advocates for human rights for all Afghans. The Taliban falsely accused them of helping the UN to investigate Taliban atrocities between 2001 and 2021.


A Frustrating System

What Mariam is seeking, as are most that reach out, is a point of contact in the government or the citizen evacuation efforts to help expedite the process. Her frustration stems from the fact that every time she thinks she is close to getting her family on a flight, the system breaks down. Either the aircraft are cancelled or unable to depart because no nation will let them land outside of Afghanistan.

Mariam relayed how all her queries to the U.S. State Department and CIA go unanswered. She had worked closely with members of both organizations, but her contacts all seem powerless to give her the most basic of answers. She has filled out all the forms she can find in the U.S. government process and the citizen efforts but waiting for a response from a human being to tell her the status is wearing her nerves thin. Frustration is the word of the day for Mariam and tens of thousands like her.

Like many Afghan-Americans and refugees, Mariam is engaging with lawyers to try to find alternate routes to save her family. She is also engaging with members of Congress to see if they can help. Every possible path to success seems to falter at the end, no matter how much money they can raise to pay for evacuations. The fatigue and stress are now causing Mariam to fear for her own safety in the U.S. as she focuses all her efforts on saving her family each day.

Mariam is one of hundreds of thousands of people trying to simply get answers since the August 15 about how to successfully rescue the Afghans that risked their lives to help the United States, UN, and NATO on a daily basis over the last two decades. They have a simple request; they want to talk to a person that can help them navigate the system and bring endangered Afghans to safety. Instead of a human guide to the system, they are being told that current flights are just for U.S. citizens or people with existing visas. The final caveat seems to always be, “there is nothing we can do to change the system.”

Mariam and most others are being told simply and often coldly to keep their families and friends safe, as this process can take years to complete. The question many are asking each day is will these Afghans survive for years on the run? The sting of betrayal by the U.S. is hard for Afghans to face, on top of the constant fear of being killed by the Taliban-Haqqani network.

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Jason spent 23 years in USG service conducting defense, diplomacy, intelligence, and education missions globally. Now he teaches, writes, podcasts, and speaks publicly about Islam, foreign affairs, and national security. He is a member of the Military Writers Guild, works with numerous non-profits and aids conflict resolution in Afghanistan.