Reviews | I was left behind in Afghanistan. I am terrified.


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Over the past two weeks, many of us have witnessed the agonizing spectacle of desperate Afghans trying to flee their country after the Taliban took control of Kabul. Many Afghans who have helped the United States over the past two decades are terrified. They assumed that when the time was right and America pulled out of Afghanistan, they would not be left at the mercy of the Taliban. They were wrong.

More than 124,000 people were airlifted out of Afghanistan – largest non-combatant evacuation in U.S. military history – but the evacuation was chaotic and rushed, which meant it was, inevitably, incomplete.

For those who stay, life is bleak. We sought someone who could offer a glimpse of that experience and perhaps give voice to the thousands of other Afghans who face similarly uncertain fates. Rasheed, who has worked with American nonprofits for nearly three years, writes eloquently in this guest essay about his intense fear, as well as his determination for a better future for his children.

While some Afghans have spoken out publicly against the Taliban, many others, including Rasheed, are reluctant to use their full names to avoid retaliation. He has been threatened by the Taliban and is still trying to escape Afghanistan. This is why The Times takes the rare step of publishing its essay using only a short form of its first name. Times Opinion has, in rare instances, published anonymous essays, and given the urgency of the issue its essay addresses – the plight of America’s Afghan partners – we felt it was appropriate in this case.

Rasheed’s essay went through our usual editing and fact-checking process, and we corroborated his story with various measures, including, but not limited to, video talking to him to verify his identity, talk with colleagues as well as with his former employer and go over documents and emails with details about his situation and the threats of the Taliban.

There are no easy solutions for Rasheed at this time, but his story is central to understanding the full extent of the repercussions of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, especially for Afghans like him who have been left behind. .

Yara Bayoumy is the editor-in-chief of Opinion’s global and national security. She is a former journalist who focused on stories related to conflict, activism and geopolitics.

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