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International aid experts told Granthshala News that US-Afghan allies, many hiding from the Taliban and running out of food and water, could be trapped in Afghanistan for years, unless they attempt the deadly voyage of escape by land. do not do.

Experts said some Afghans may be able to overtake the Taliban and eventually flee by chartered flights. Others can be evacuated through humanitarian organizations, but those evacuations could take months or even years to establish without international pressure and would require negotiations with the Taliban.

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Experts said an Afghan fleeing a land route could face geographical challenges such as 20 Taliban outposts, hostile officials on closed borders and, depending on the route, snow-capped mountains.

“It’s a very dangerous journey, but many people don’t have a choice,” John Sifton, Human Rights Watch’s Asia Advocacy Director, told Granthshala News. “Stay near the Taliban and get killed or run away and try to make a new life somewhere else.”

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‘A terrible moral stain’

With about 100 US citizens and about 1,000 green card holders, more than 100,000, or possibly many more, Afghan partners live in Afghanistan. The Afghans left behind include interpreters who risked their lives fighting the Taliban while helping the US military, former government officials, human rights activists and employees of international organizations.

“They are now at increased risk because of that work,” Sifton told Granthshala News.

Rep. Peter Meijer, who traveled to Kabul during the US August airlift, said many are hiding in safe houses or are constantly changing places. They ask the neighbors if anyone comes asking them.

“They are acting in a sense of incredible fear because no one knows what the Taliban is going to do,” the Michigan Republican told Granthshala News.

“There has already been a significant amount of retaliatory killings,” said Meijer, who served in the Army Reserves and later worked for a non-profit in Afghanistan. “People are being dragged from their homes and killed.”

He said those examples are not systematic, and it is not clear whether the Taliban leadership ordered the targeted killings. Taliban has promised an apology to anyone who worked with the US

But Meijer also said that, as the Taliban become more organized, fighters may go door to door hunting people or closing hotels where they suspect targets are hiding.

Howie Lind, president of the International Stability Operations Association, said many of the hideouts are “running out of food and water.”

“It’s going to be a really frustrating situation for them. Time really is of the essence here,” the retired Navy commander told Granthshala News. “We have to get these people out.”

Daniel Runde, senior vice president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said it would be a terrible moral stain if the US does not help its Afghan allies flee. Both Sifton and Runde said the US has “a special obligation” to ensure their safety.

‘Run with your life’

Fearing retaliation from the Taliban, Afghans are forced to decide: hide or run.

“The Taliban will be able to navigate checkpoints to gain access to some airports, which may have a limited number of commercial or chartered flights,” Sifton told Granthshala News. “But many of these people are fleeing the land and presenting themselves in various places along the border with Afghanistan.”

“These people are literally running for their lives with no choice,” he said.

According to Runde, an Afghan expatriate may face up to 20 Taliban checkpoints during his journey.

“On each one, money changes hands,” Sifton told Granthshala News, and “you’re running the risk of someone flagging you for who you are, what you did.”

While the borders of surrounding countries are closed, some Afghans may be able to pass through. But if they do encounter officers, the guards of many border countries are often dangerous and violent, according to Sifton.

For example, Turkish officials are “extraordinarily cruel to refugees,” he told Granthshala News.

Migrants may also face geographical barriers.

“We have interviewed refugees in Greece who have moved into the snow-capped mountains,” Sifton told Granthshala News. “They’ve swam across rivers. They’ve swam across the Aegean [Sea] to the Greek islands.”

“And then if you make it to an embassy, ​​some of these claims will take months to process,” Sifton continued. “Where are you going to live? Can your kids go to school? What will you eat?”

‘Hermit Kingdom’

According to Runde, other nations or humanitarian organizations can also set up evacuations, but they can take months or even years to establish without international pressure. It would also require talks with the Taliban.

Sifton said the best-case scenario would be that an independent organization such as the United Nations acted as a mediator. This would give Afghans a safe exit from the country and the US would not have to send names of potential refugees to the Taliban.

Runde and Lind told Granthshala News that such groups could also create a so-called humanitarian corridor outside the country, which could provide protection from Taliban posts and hostile border guards.

Lind said such missions would require the US to write large checks to humanitarian groups.

“We cannot be seen as breaking trust with our Afghan allies,” he said.

Representative Yvette Herrell likened it to “a hostage situation”.

“There will probably be some sort of money exchange going to get these people home safely,” the New Mexico Republican said. “And it didn’t have to be like that.”

Or, if other nations set up embassies in Afghanistan, Afghans could try to use them to claim asylum, Sifton said. They may be able to use them as pass-throughs as a means of getting to the US

But these methods would not be possible if the US and the world at large were to make Afghanistan a “hermit empire” under Taliban rule, Sifton told Granthshala News.

“It’s easy to say, ‘Oh, we should cut out the Taliban, cut this country out of the world,’ but we’re rapidly getting to a point where we need to recognize that there’s an abomination, of rights. Despite the abusive regime, we have to do business with these people if we want to help the people we care about and the Afghans who are left behind,” Sifton said.

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“You have to come together with even the most disgusting people to come to an agreement about how to protect innocent people or people at risk,” Sifton continued.

The need goes beyond fears of Taliban retaliation. The UN food stock in Afghanistan could soon run out, leading to a hunger crisis.

“The Taliban represents an outrageous right, a brutal regime that has killed and oppressed people and plans to subjugate the human rights of millions of people for years to come,” Sifton told Granthshala News. “But for those people it would not matter if they died because of the famine.”