C.I.A.-Backed Afghan Fighters Are Still Waiting to Reach U.S.

WASHINGTON — During the frantic evacuation from Afghanistan in August, the American troops securing the Kabul airport in opposition to suicide bombers and different risks weren’t alone. At the path of the C.I.A., agency-trained Afghan counterterrorism squads helped patrol the perimeter, safe the gates and get American residents by means of them.

Those Afghan commandos stayed to the top, and had been among the many final allies to be evacuated. But whilst some 80,000 different Afghan refugees rapidly reached the United States, a whole bunch of the C.I.A.-backed fighters and their households are amongst 1000’s who remained caught at a sprawling refugee compound within the Emirati desert.

As weeks have was months, some members of the C.I.A.-backed squads — which at instances over the previous 20 years had been accused of killing civilians and different wartime abuses — say they really feel deserted, victims of a chaotic withdrawal through which the velocity with which departing Afghans reached the United States was typically decided by nothing greater than what sort of airplane they left on.

Biden administration officers say they’re on monitor to finally come to the United States.

But the plight of the commandos underscores the problems persevering with to plague the intensive evacuation, vetting and resettlement efforts 5 months after the abrupt Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August.

At essentially the most fundamental degree, the entire Afghans who helped the NATO forces throughout the 20-year Afghanistan conflict and are actually in Abu Dhabi are lucky: They bought out with their households and are protected. Since August, there have been a slew of nonjudicial killings carried out in opposition to former authorities safety drive members who remained in Afghanistan.

But interviews with half a dozen officers concerned within the effort and other people conversant in the accounts supplied by among the commandos assist illustrate the key variations in how Afghans who bought out are being handled primarily based on which planes they boarded on the Kabul airport.

Afghans who bought onto American army planes are the extra lucky: They had been taken to bases the place offers with host nations allowed them to keep for only some weeks. After they had been vetted at such momentary transit places, the Homeland Security Department invoked a hardly ever used “humanitarian parole” energy to swiftly transfer them to the United States.

As a consequence, almost all of these roughly 80,000 Afghans have now already been ready to attain the United States. Most of them have been resettled and are beginning new lives — though their functions for everlasting standing with a Special Immigrant Visa, or S.I.V., are nonetheless being processed.

By distinction, these Afghans who boarded non-American evacuation flights, akin to charters operated by the United Arab Emirates, had been taken to services in host nations the place they’ll keep indefinitely, together with the U.A.E.-run compound often called Emirates Humanitarian City. A good portion of its roughly 9,000 refugee residents are C.I.A.-trained fighters and their households, in accordance to individuals conversant in the matter.

A overwhelming majority of 1000’s of C.I.A.-trained fighters and their households have already been relocated to the United States, American officers stated. But that has made the ready for the a whole bunch in United Arab Emirates all of the extra painful, in accordance to the previous Afghan commandos.

Because these Afghans in locations like Humanitarian City are protected, the United States is processing them by means of common bureaucratic order, officers stated. As a consequence, they’re being required to wait there till their S.I.V. functions are accomplished — which might take many months. Requirements for vaccinations and medical assessments can additional gradual the method.

Biden administration officers had been reluctant to speak about or acknowledge the C.I.A.-backed squads particularly. But they insisted that every one the evacuees in Humanitarian City and different nations could be handled pretty.

“We’re working to develop a standardized process that ensures we make good on our commitments to our Afghan allies,” Emily Horne, a National Security Council spokeswoman, stated in an announcement. “We cannot underestimate the anxiety that they and their families must feel. Those of us working on this want to alleviate that anxiety as best we can and make good on our country’s pledge to them.”

One official stated that about 500 S.I.V. candidates every week attain a stage within the course of the place the State Department locations them in a queue for eventual switch to the United States, and that a few quarter of the inhabitants of refugees in Humanitarian City is now at that stage.

But that official additionally stated even for that group, it was probably to be a number of extra months at finest earlier than these candidates would full different steps within the visa course of. Another official stated it was probably to be one other 5 months earlier than the C.I.A. fighters and their households had been ready to come to the United States.

The fighters are not like most different refugees in various respects, not least the important thing function they performed in working with the C.I.A. on the counterinsurgency and counterterrorism campaigns, through which they had been typically despatched to kill or seize high-profile targets akin to these within the Taliban’s violent Haqqani community and Al Qaeda.

Their American trainers noticed them as environment friendly and dependable at combating the Taliban. But many Afghan civilians accused them of their very own acts of terror: violently raiding rural villages, indiscriminately killing civilians and abusing prisoners.

In 2019, a report by Human Rights Watch accused the C.I.A.-trained counterterrorism forces of killing civilians throughout night time raids meant to strike at terrorist cells. The report detailed 14 instances the place C.I.A.-trained models dedicated “serious abuses” between 2017 and 2019.

Tammy Ok. Thorp, the chief spokeswoman for the C.I.A., stated the United States takes accusations of human rights abuses severely, however the allegations in opposition to the company’s forces in Afghanistan had been merely not true. “A false narrative exists about these forces that has persisted over the years due to a systematic propaganda campaign by the Taliban,” she stated.

Multiple senior American officers stated that the counterterrorism fighters weren’t being evaluated with better warning due to the kind of function they performed within the conflict, and that they had been on monitor to obtain S.I.V. standing. The officers spoke on the situation of anonymity due to the character of the work performed by the Afghans at the side of the C.I.A.

And after The New York Times started asking questions in regards to the group, American officers have tried to reassure them that they may get visas to enter the United States within the subsequent three to six months, in accordance to individuals briefed on the conversations.

That two-tiered system through which some Afghans should full their visa course of earlier than getting into, one other official stated, displays the dimensions of the problem: American packages that resettle refugees are already overwhelmed, having been in the reduction of within the Trump years after which being confronted with the massive inflow of Afghans. There are nonetheless about 12,000 Afghans at home army bases awaiting matching with resettlement companies that may transfer them to a metropolis and assist them get began, officers stated.

There are additionally smaller teams of Afghan refugees nonetheless hoping to come to the United States scattered about elsewhere, together with about 250 at a transit zone in Qatar. And there are about 200 at a NATO base in Kosovo, comprising a number of dozen males who had been weeded out in the initial vetting of these in any other case eligible for humanitarian parole and so are present process further screening, together with family staying with them.

But whilst American officers counsel endurance, those that discover themselves nonetheless ready within the desert exterior Abu Dhabi are rising annoyed. Those emotions seem significantly sharp among the many counterterrorism models, who say they served the United States at important private threat to the top — whilst different models surrendered to the Taliban or melted into the countryside.

“These guys should get credit for doing what they did for 20 years — fight our common enemy, Al Qaeda and the Taliban,” stated Mick Mulroy, a retired C.I.A. paramilitary officer and Afghanistan veteran.

Mr. Mulroy stated he was not criticizing the Emirates, and praised the U.A.E. for taking within the Afghan refugees. But he stated the United States, inside procedures, ought to velocity their passage to America.

In conversations with Americans, the fighters have described circumstances in Humanitarian City as strained and more and more disagreeable, including to their sense of being forgotten.

The facility is actually a set of makeshift inns designed for short-term stays. It was established in 2003, initially to be a hub to assist support staff touring to catastrophe areas. Last August, the Emirates agreed to host 5,000 evacuees at Humanitarian City, although way more are there now.

While meals is plentiful, individuals conversant in the every day lives of residents stated it had been a supply of recurring complaints among the many refugees.

In explicit, one of many individuals described the meals as cooked and spiced in an Indian type, saying the Afghan evacuees discover it unpalatable. It can be generally spoiled: The individual supplied The Times with footage and movies displaying moldy eggs, spoiled meat, rice served with shreds of paper combined in and rotting potatoes. The individual stated some youngsters had meals poisoning this month, forcing a short lived halt in meal service.

Lines to see a physician to get hold of vaccinations required for admission to the United States or different medical care are hours lengthy, the individuals conversant in residents’ complaints stated, and the medicines are sometimes out of inventory after they search to fill their prescriptions. Most of the medical personnel are Indian or Ugandan, requiring translators.

In an announcement, the Emirati Embassy in Washington stated it had assisted within the evacuation of greater than 40,000 individuals from Afghanistan. The Emirates has supplied meals and well being providers together with education and leisure actions within the air-conditioned services of Humanitarian City, the embassy stated. The services in Humanitarian City had been designed to home individuals solely quickly, the embassy stated, and the United States is main the hassle to switch evacuees.

A senior administration official stated circumstances in Humanitarian City had been pretty much as good as or higher than these of refugees nonetheless at American army bases, which have additionally been strained as a result of they weren’t designed to home giant numbers of refugees for a very long time.

But Afghans within the Emirates stated they’d somewhat be within the United States whereas going by means of the visa course of to allow them to start their seek for work and a brand new life instantly. And the longer they wait, the extra the Afghans fear they could not make it to the United States.

Former C.I.A. officers who labored with them stated their efforts on behalf of America ought to be acknowledged.

“These guys have literally been fighting every night for 20 years,” Mr. Mulroy stated. “They are really skilled. They have proven themselves.”

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