Afghanistan – The Long Road Ahead
Newsweek|October 29, 2021
The war may be over, but for refugees from the Taliban the battle has just begun
By Jalen Small

THE LAST AMERICAN TROOPS HAVE LEFT Afghanistan. The news cameras have turned to other issues around the world. But for the roughly 38 million Afghans who remain, and the 130,000 or so who managed to leave, the war is far from over.

Omaid Sharifi is president of ArtLords, a grassroots art movement based in Afghanistan. He was evacuated with his family to Abu Dhabi, where he has spent the last month in a refugee camp, awaiting resettlement to the United States.

“From the life I’ve lived for 34 years,” he says. “I could only get one T-shirt, a pair of trousers and my laptop. I lost everything else in this chaos.”

Unfortunately, Sharifi’s case is far from unique. “Refugees are people that have been forcibly uprooted from their homes and have had to flee violence and persecution on a large scale, often with nothing— none of their possessions,” Chris Boian, senior communications officer of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says.

As of October 12, more than 11,000 Afghans have been matched with resettlement agencies and affiliates to join communities across the country, a State Department spokesperson says, and will receive initial resettlement services through the Afghan Placement and Assistance (APA) Program.

“We anticipate up to 65,000 Afghans will be assisted in coming to U.S. military bases this fall, including many who have already arrived, the State Department said. “Up to 30,000 additional Afghans over the following 12 months may also be relocated and resettled to the United States.

While those individuals, currently housed at U.S. military bases across the country, face a number of weeks before their settlement in U.S. towns, for those abroad the expectations remain far more uncertain.

Sharifi was in Kabul as the Taliban took the capital. “It was August 15. We were in the heart of Kabul city, he says. “Around noon, we saw a lot of people panicking and running around, and that's the moment we asked what was happening. They told us the Taliban was in the city.”

After trying for a week to find a way to evacuate, he received help from Qatar's embassy. “In the middle of the night, around 3 a.m., we were put on a bus, and there was a Taliban car and a Qatar car escorting us to the airport.” When his family boarded the plane they were not told where they were going. Once they finally arrived in Abu Dhabi he was filled with a sense of relief.

As other Afghan refugees await word on the next steps in their journey, many feel that they have left the hell of Taliban rule only to enter the limbo of an overwhelmed American bureaucracy. “It has been a month now,” Sharifi says. “We came here with the promise that the Americans are going to take care of us. I hope this promise is going to be committed to. We hope to arrive in the United States and resettle.

Sharifi and his family are among the very few fortunate refugees-not just those from Afghanistan, but worldwide. “It's important that people understand that most refugees in the world are never resettled anywhere,” Boian says. “Less than one half of 1 percent of refugees around the world are ever resettled to any other country. It's a solution that is available only to a very, very tiny fraction of refugees.”

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