Even in the final days of Washington’s chaotic airlift in Afghanistan, Javed Habibi was getting phone calls from the US government promising that the green card holder from Richmond, Virginia, his wife and their four daughters would not be left behind.
He was told to stay home and not worry, that they would be evacuated. Late Monday, however, his heart sank as he heard that the final US flights had left Kabul’s airport, followed by the blistering staccato sound of Taliban gunfire, celebrating what they saw as their victory over America.
“They lied to us,” Habibi said of the US government. He is among hundreds of American citizens and green card holders stranded in the Afghan capital.
Victoria Nuland, undersecretary of state for political affairs, would not address individual cases but said all US citizens and lawful permanent residents who could not get evacuation flights or were otherwise stranded had been contacted individually in the past 24 hours and told to expect further information about routes out once those have been arranged.
“We will communicate directly to them personalized instructions on what they should do, when they should do it, and how the United States government feels we are best positioned to help them do that,” added State Department spokesman Ned Price.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken praised the evacuation effort despite the scenes of thousands of people jammed outside the gates at Kabul’s airport.
He said between 100 and 200 remained in Afghanistan, promising that any American who wants to leave Afghanistan would be taken out.
For some of those who remain, however, the trauma of trying for nearly two weeks to get onto a US plane is still harrowing.
Habibi, an electrician who has lived in Richmond since 2015 on a special immigration visa, had returned to Afghanistan for a visit on June 22 — the first time his family had been back since 2019. Their return flight was to have been Aug. 31.
About Aug. 18, Habibi said he got an email from the U.S. government saying that his family — all green card holders except for their youngest, who has a U.S. passport — would be evacuated.
Subsequent emails said he should take his family to the airport. He obeyed, but the mad crush of people prevented him from getting near the gate on his first two attempts.
His daughter, Madina, who at 15 has flawless English and serves as the family spokesperson, said she and her younger sister were almost trampled at the airport. The family wrote back, “It’s too dangerous. We can’t go into the crowd,” she said.
The emails kept arriving, saying they should go to the airport, she said. By Aug. 25, the emails had been replaced by phone calls from Arlington, Virginia, Madina said.
The callers, who identified themselves as being from the U.S. Embassy, told the family to stay at home and that the government was aware of their location, she said, speaking for her father.—AP