Last August, America ended its 20-year military occupation of Afghanistan. During the waning days of the Afghan War, the US and its allies evacuated more than 100,000 Afghans. A year later, thousands of refugees languish in camps run by the US and its partners worldwide. Still, tens of thousands of people remain in Afghanistan who aided the nation-building effort and are seeking Washington’s approval to come to the US.
In the UAE and Kosovo, thousands of Afghan migrants are stranded in camps that residents call “prisons.” Those Afghans were evacuated by the US military but have not received permission to enter the US. Camp Liya – the facility in Kosovo – was scheduled to close this week, but the US has scrapped plans to shut it.
In Albania, 800 Afghans live at a hotel. Unlike other Afghans, these migrants caught private flights from Kabul. Initially, private and public funding was lined up to cover the expenses. As Washington has moved slowly to offer a path for the refugees to gain permanent residence, some bills have gone unpaid.
The Afghan Rescue Project now owes the hotel over $2 million for housing nearly 400 migrants. The group claims the US government should be responsible for the bill. “The US government has no responsibility for these people,” said a senior State Department official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Congress has authorized $7 billion in funding to resettle Afghans.
The White House claims it stated it would not bear any responsibility for Afghans who took private flights. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, a Democrat, argues that the lines between public and private assistance were blurred as people rushed to board flights before the Taliban assumed complete control over Kabul. Slotkin worked with Albania for Tirana to accept refugees. Some of the Afghans who traveled to Albania worked with the US-built government.
Meanwhile, still seeking to leave Afghanistan are tens of thousands of people who worked for the US government or Western-backed aid groups. In the past year, 66,000 Afghans have applied for humanitarian parole, and only 123 have been approved. The application costs $575, a fee that has been waived for Ukrainians but not Afghans.
Matt Zeller, a former CIA analyst and military veteran who co-founded the nonprofit No One Left Behind, said, “We left behind the vast majority of the Afghans we were attempting to evacuate, and haven’t really lifted a finger helping them get to safety.” He continued, “At this rate, it will take over 18 years to successfully get our Afghan allies out.”
Along with people who supported the US mission, other Afghans are waiting on the White House to fulfill promises of residency in America. Anisa Ahmadi – the widow of Zemari Ahmadi – is still in Afghanistan. Zemari was the target of a US drone strike that killed ten people, including seven children. Zemari worked for a US aid group and was not connected to a militant group.
“I’m surprised we’re still here,” Anisa said. “I feel that it’s all just talking and no action.”