U.S. Embassy official left behind in Afghanistan now living in squalor in Pakistan refugee camp
Part 3 in series of USAID staff targeted by Taliban who Pres. Biden left behind
When Arash* e-mailed me recently that he had escaped Afghanistan, I assumed he finally got a U.S. visa to get to safety. I was wrong. He took his family and newborn baby to Pakistan to escape the Taliban that has been hunting him for his work at the U.S. Embassy.
Arash had to leave Afghanistan, but now he is stuck waiting for the American government to rescue him from the squalor of a Pakistan refugee camp. He sent me the photos of their housing that you see in this story.
CATCH UP: This is part three in a series of a father who was a high-ranking official at USAID in the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. Read part one here: Abandoned in Afghanistan: USAID employee cites 'moral obligation' of America (Part 1) Read part two here: Newborn in a Basement: Father Beaten by Taliban for Working at USAID in Afghanistan (Part 2)
Arash escaped Afghanistan by road on the Torkham Border by “giving money to the agent that hides us from Taliban members through the way.”
I asked how did he know it was a safe way to take his young family.
“I take this risk by trusting the agent who had helped my friend, but it was very dangerous. Everywhere we hit checkpoints, and they let us through after we give money to the agent,” he said.
I asked about his young children. “They’re sick here in Pakistan, and I don’t have the money now to take them to the doctors because I don’t have a job. The house I live in the camp is a dirty environment and not safe for their health.”
Arash was a financial analyst in USAID’s Office of Economic Growth and Trade in Afghanistan, which made him a specific target of the Taliban. He was captured by a Taliban member in 2019 and beaten. That Taiban was imprisoned at Bagram but released after the U.S. withdrew.
His former employers at USAID in Afghanistan sponsored his pending visa application as a P-1 refugee, which is for people who are in imminent danger and need protection.
The U.S. State Department will only process the P-1 refugees once they are out of Afghanistan. A State Department spokesman told me:
“We recognize that it is currently extremely difficult for Afghans to obtain a visa to a third country or find a way to enter a third country, and like many refugees, may face significant challenges fleeing to safety.”
Once he got to Pakistan in May, Arash got his case number for the priority refugee program. He received an email that one of the seven global Resettlement Support Centers (RSC) would contact him with the next steps. He hasn’t heard anything since then.
Arash told me this week that he’s frustrated that State told him to leave Afghanistan but has no office to go to for help. However, an actual RSC office has no bearing on a P1 applicant being processed or supported in the country.
A State Department official said:
We strongly encourage Afghanistan’s neighbors to allow entry for Afghans and coordinate with humanitarian international organizations to provide humanitarian assistance to Afghans in need. We also particularly urge states to uphold their respective obligations to not return Afghan refugees or asylum seekers to persecution or torture, and to respect the principle of non-refoulement.
Arash is one of at least tens of thousands left behind in the evacuation who the Taliban is after because they worked for the U.S. government.
According to the Voice of America, Pakistani officials report more than 300,000 Afghans have entered Pakistan since the Taliban takeover. It says two-thirds crossed the border illegally.
Pres. Biden said on Aug. 31, 2021 that Operation Allies Refuge has “no deadline. He promised that the U.S. would continue “diplomatic efforts to ensure a safe passage for any American, Afghan partner, or foreign national who wants to leave Afghanistan.”
Now ten months later, there are still hundreds of thousands of Afghans who worked for our military or, like Arash, our Embassy and need rescue from the Taliban.
While the State Department is trying to get some people rescued, it’s too few and it’s taking too long. Arash and our other allies served our country and need to get rescued out of this terrible camp in Pakistan.
Arash* is not his real name. I have his full name and information, as does the State Department.
United Nations Refugee in Pakistan.
Voice of America UN-supported Survey Finds Pakistan Hosts 1.3 Million Afghan Refugees
U.S. State Department Update on Afghan Immigrant Visa Processing at U.S. Mission Pakistan
U.S. State Department U.S. Refugee Admissions Program: Overseas Application and Case Processing
Pres. Biden remarks 8/31/2021