A Monthly Newsmagazine from Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought (ICIT)
To Gain access to thousands of articles, khutbas, conferences, books (including tafsirs) & to participate in life enhancing events

News & Analysis

American Dream Eludes Afghan Refugees

Zia Sarhadi

Is it possible to forget the images of Afghans clinging to the fuselage of an American C-17 globemaster cargo plane as it taxied down the runway at Kabul Airport to takeoff in August 2021? Why didn’t American occupation troops at the airport get the Afghans off the fuselage or prevent the plane from taking off? They knew the people clinging to the fuselage will plunge to their death.

These Afghans did not make it too far. They fell to the earth soon after the plane took off. Did the Americans want to make them an example to others so that they would not do such a thing?

These were Afghans that had helped the American and other western occupation forces during the 20-year war. The vast majority of Afghans considered them as enemies of the people. If the Americans treated their collaborators with such disdain, one can imagine the horrors they must have inflicted on those that opposed them during the 20-year-war.

Let us peak inside the cargo whose external human baggage had dropped from the sky. The Americans had stuffed the C-17 globemaster cargo plane with 823 people: men, women and children. There were no seats; people were forced to sit on the metal floor or on their bags. This must have been the largest human cargo transported on a plane! If cats and dogs were subjected to such treatment, there would be an outcry from animal rights activists.

According to the Wall Street Journal, more than 76,000 Afghans “were flown to US military bases around the world, where their names and fingerprints were run through security systems, before being sent onto the US. They were temporarily settled on eight military installations in the US, where they waited until refugee resettlement agencies were ready to move them into permanent homes.”

Of the 76,000 Afghans brought to the US, some 62,000 have been moved out of military bases, most into communities with relatives or other Afghans. Their ordeal, however, is far from over.

The other 14,000 are still living on five bases in the US while they wait for the resettlement agencies to take their cases. These agencies are highly bureaucratic and move at snail’s pace. There is, however, another hurdle that these Afghans face.

While referred to as “refugees”, legally, they do not qualify as such. They did not enter the US through the Refugee Admissions Program. To be admitted as refugee, takes years to process. Further, they have to go through a much more rigorous security screening process.

Instead, these Afghans were brought to the US on temporary humanitarian grounds under what is known as “parole”. It is almost like treating them as criminals who have been granted parole. Imagine, these were people that put their own lives at risk to serve the Americans. While in Afghanistan, the Americans trusted them but once it came to the question of bringing them to the US, different sets of rules kicked in: trusted in Afghanistan, distrusted in the US.

There was much chest-thumping by American officials about not forgetting their Afghan allies but the reality is very different. The scheme under which these Afghans brought to the US last year affords them temporary permission to be in the country. In order to regularize their stay, they must apply for visas through a family member or employer, or else apply for asylum.

How many Afghans have family members in the US? As for employment, given the economic crisis and a looming recession, if employers in the US are laying off American workers, what chance is there for newly-arrived Afghans who lack language skills, are unfamiliar with US work environment and do not even know how to find the bus that would take them to their particular destination? Many are struggling to adjust to life in the US.

Applying for asylum would require these Afghans to get a lawyer. Given the nature of lawyers—there are known as sharks that gouge people by charging enormous fees—where would the destitute Afghans get the resources to pay them? The process itself takes years.

That is not all. What happens if they lose their asylum case? They will have to leave the US but where would they go? No other country would take them and there is no way they can return to Afghanistan.

There are of course immigrant advocate groups in the US as in most other western countries. Such organizations are usually made up of dedicated individuals but lack the resources both in manpower and finances. They have warned that putting tens of thousands of Afghans into the already overburdened asylum system could prove disastrous.

While this is the dilemma of Afghans brought to the US and given “security clearance” at military bases, there are another 2,500 Afghans still living at US military bases abroad. Yes, you read that correctly, they are still stuck at US military bases abroad more than a year after the US took them out of Kabul on planes packed as sardines.

Another group of Afghans—numbers unknown—are stuck in third countries. They were evacuated on charter planes and dumped in such places as Uganda, Albania and others. The governments of these countries were bribed to take these refugees. They certainly do not want them and the Afghans do not want to live there. What is to be their fate, no one knows. It is highly unlikely the Americans even care.

And then there is the heart-breaking case of hundreds of Afghan children separated from their parents. More than a year after they arrived in the US while their parents are still in Afghanistan. A report published by NBC News on September 9 cited new figures from the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). It showed that more than 230 Afghan children were alone in the US while their parents or caregivers were in Afghanistan, according to a report by Press-TV.

The plight of these Afghans should serve as a salutary lesson to other would-be American collaborators that Uncle Sam is an ungrateful customer. Once his interests are served, he will abandon you to your fate.

Article from

Crescent International Vol. 51, No. 8

Rabi' al-Awwal 05, 14442022-10-01

Sign In


Forgot Password ?


Not a Member? Sign Up