Afghan family’s hope for evacuation dwindles despite Fort Bliss preparing for increased volume of refugees

Local News

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — The future looks bleak for Afghan refugees desperate to evacuate the country.

On Wednesday, more than 10,000 people were waiting inside the airport in Kabul and thousands more waited outside in the surrounding desert heat, while lawmakers across in the U.S. were briefed on the latest updates regarding the Afghan refugee crisis. 

Khan, an Afghan man in Kabul trying to evacuate with his family, drove through the Taliban early Wednesday morning in an effort to make it inside the gates of the airport. They were able to get through the Taliban, but not the gates. 

“I’m sorry to say that we did not get inside the gate,” despite the family’s Special Immigrant Visa applications being completed, said Khan.

Khan said the disappointment was overshadowed by an eruption of grief and outbursts of violence between other Afghans and members of the Taliban. 

“There is blood and shooting,” said Khan before sending a video of the scene.

In the video, an Afghan man bleeds from a wound in his head, while filming selfie-style. The man shows a crowded scene and a crush of people begin shouting. A confrontation occurs between the man and a member of the Taliban, then the phone is knocked from the man’s hand and the video ends.

Khan said the man was shot and killed by the Taliban in front of his family shortly after. He said he and his family waited in the heat for most of the day before returning to the apartment they hoped to escape.

One of his sons became dehydrated over the course of the day but is doing better.

“We are home safe and sound for now,” he said.

Khan said he and his family will not be returning to the airport on Thursday because it does not look likely that they will be evacuated.

President Joe Biden and the Taliban agreed to a deadline of Aug. 31 to withdraw U.S. forces, however, the U.S. is expected to pull out troops ahead of the deadline, with tens of thousands of Afghans like Khan who qualify for the SIV program.

Military installations across the country, including Fort Bliss, are receiving flights of Afghan refugees as they arrive. Fort Bliss is being expanded to accommodate about double the arrivals originally expected, although it’s unclear if and when the refugees will be evacuated after the Taliban announced it would not be permitting the exodus of Afghan nationals.

The Republican National Committee said the Afghan refugee crisis is yet another failure of the Biden Administration but is shelving its grievances to focus on issues that are a top priority.

“I think it’s more important, right now, to focus on the individuals, the Americans who are still stuck in Afghanistan, handling the border crisis here and, of course, making sure those Afghan refugees and Afghans who helped us for so many years are adequately taken care of,” Macarena Martinez, Texas Communications for the Republican National Committee, told KTSM 9 News. 

Democrats agree.

Congresswoman Veronica Escobar (TX-16) toured the Fort Bliss facilities for the Afghan refugees for the first time, where she said there is a lot of work to be done that includes a serious look at the past.

“There needs to be a look back over the last two decades,” she said, adding that she expects a number of Congressional hearings to take place.

Escobar said that she met with — and thanked — every soldier on base who helped in the evacuation missions.

“The soldiers told me that the morale of our Afghan guests is high inside the facilities,” said Escobar.

“And that’s what they’re calling the refugees,” she continued, “our Afghan guests.”

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