Why were Afghanis who wanted to leave still there at the end?

Not sure if GD is the correct forum, but I found myself asking this when the news reported all of the stories about people wishing to get out of Afghanistan in the weeks before/after the US pulled out. It shouldn’t have exactly been news to anyone who cared, that the US was pulling out eventually, that the Taliban was gaining ground, and that the Taliban were the same warm and fuzzies they always have been.

How hard would it have been for anyone who wanted to leave Afghanistan to do so at any time over the past 20 yrs? If someone COULD’VE gotten out, but DIDN’T, why ought we care about them now?

There were many interpreters who had worked for the US military that were bogged down by red tape and paperwork for a long time, even prior to the Taliban advance.

But as for the others, I dunno.

A lot of them were dealing with family issues and trying to get approval to bring more of their extended family with them. Some had gone back to Afghanistan for visits intending to come back, and their flights were canceled etc. One story had a guy whose family went back to visit family in Afghanistan for what they thought might be the “last time” due to the deteriorating conditions in the country, his wife and kids went over to do the visit back in April. Their belief was that the Kabul government would hold on for at least a year or more as that is what all the officials were saying. By the time it was obvious it wasn’t, they couldn’t get out. They had commercial tickets home but the flights got canceled when things got serious. The last I heard that guy was living in suburban DC and trying to find ways to get his wife and kids (all of whom have green cards) out of Afghanistan, not sure on how it ended up.

For most of those 20 years many people in both Afghanistan and the US though the future was a stable state under a democratic government, not the return of the Taliban.

I guess I would ask when the State Dept issued a travel advisory NOT to travel to Afghanistan. I suspect it was sometime earlier this year, so would people have known it was risky to go there months ago? Sure, the Aug pull-out emerged more swiftly than planned, but for those that more recently traveled there, for whatever reason, would/should they have known better? Or is the OP asking why people did not leave earlier this year before things went downhill, fast?

Show of hands - who thought this?

Then those people were mental fucking defectives.

Do you think the organizations that were building and promoting schools for girls in Afghanistan thought those were temporary programs that would only last until an inevitable return of the Taliban. Ditto female judges?

A show of hands of pessimist cynics on this board is irrelevant. Real events in Afghanistan show many were working on projects aimed at a non-Taliban future. It can be argued they were naive, but it’s a part of the explanation for why people didn’t just leave “at any point during the last 20 years”.

That’s … quite the statement to willingly put into the permanent record.

Not really, Anyone who paid the slightest bit of attention to Afghanistan knew that.

Let’s ask the Russians, or the British, or Alexander the Great how ready Afghanistan is for nation building? I’m sure a lot of well intentioned folk were working hard. But show me why anyone would have reasonably thought the puppet government s over the past 20 years were not corrupt - or that the Taliban was just going to go away?

Thousands of Afghans who worked for US forces in Afghanistan wanted to leave but were not able to secure visas to come to the US. The number I’ve heard is 17,000 translators, but with immediate family, perhaps 70,000 people wanted to leave. So some of the Afghans who wanted to leave were still there at the end because the US government wasn’t letting them come here. Because they’d worked for the US military, they were targeted for retribution.

(See for instance this Washington Post article from December 30, 2020.)

Yeah - a lot of folk made a bad bet depending on the US. Too bad for them. But if the US was undependable in taking care of them, why didn’t they go ANYWHERE else where the Taliban wasn’t?

In addition, it is difficult to leave your nation and culture to go someplace you may have never been with little cultural base and uncertain prospects for employment even if where you are coming from is a complete shitshow. Being a refugee is a difficult experience in the best of circumstances even when you are nominally welcome. Many Afghans also have strong extended family bonds, and leaving the country may mean uncertainty about when or if they will be allowed back in, particularly if emigrating to the US with its byzantine and constantly changing collection of naturalization and work permit laws that may not allow a would-be immigrant to leave and return. We’ve seen stories of angst from people who did manage to get about having left behind families with no idea if they’ll be able to see them again.

And Afghanistan is an incredibly poor nation; without sponsorship by the US Department of State or one of the approved NGOs, just putting together enough money for an initial travel, much less being able to afford to live in an industrialized nation in anything but abject poverty is beyond the means of most, hence why so many people were willing to work for the US and Coalition occupation forces despite the risk to themselves and their families. And Afghanistan, being a predominately mountainous and landlocked country, does not allow easy overland routes or ports for people to immigrate without flying. Pakistan doesn’t want refugees, Iran doesn’t want refugees; Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan couldn’t afford to support mass refugees even if they wanted to.

I assume that the o.p. just doesn’t have the context and assumes that leaving Afghanistan is as simple as logging into Expedia and buying a plane ticket but that just isn’t the reality. And even if it were, there are a lot of people who sincerely wanted to see Afghanistan succeed against all odds because it is their home, their culture, and everything they know. That the installed Afghan Interim Authority was corrupt from the start and the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan was inept and deceitful was well understood, but I’m sure people working day to day still hoped that their collective contributions would allow the more progressive Afghanistan society to retain control of cities even if the more remote provinces were controlled by Taliban warlords. It is easy to observe from without that the national government and military would immediately collapse without US and NATO support, but even a lot of Western observers were stunned at just how rapid and catastrophic the collapse was.


That’s why I asked in my OP how hard it was?
Sure woulda been cheaper to just offer free flights and shelter in the US to anyone wanting it, and just left Afgh to the Taliban and anyone who doesn’t want to leave their extended family and such.

They didn’t want to leave over the last 20 years. They worried that they might have to leave over the past year or so, but it’s not like they had a lot of options. Suppose an Afghani was working for USAID, and thought in April 2021 that the Taliban was going to take over the country. Could he have gone to whichever USAID American manager he had access to and asked that manager to get him and his family out of the country? Or could he go to the US Embassy in Kabul, state that Afghanistan was about to be taken over, and could he please be given a visa to go to the USA, since he had worked for the American government?

Afghanis who had worked for foreign governments or NGO’s probably would have liked to have been evacuated when Afghanistan fell to the Taliban. But prior to that, they had a choice of quitting their jobs, selling their house and most of their possessions, and becoming a refugee, or an asylum seeker. Not a very good choice. Yet thousands of Afghanis, not that they were necessarily associated with foreign governments or NGO’s did make that choice. Most didn’t just fly to some foreign country. They entered a people smuggling network that was expensive, dangerous, full of hardship, and had an uncertain outcome. And when they got to their final destination, presumably somewhere in Europe, it’s not like they were welcomed with open arms.

I’m not saying it woulda been an easy choice. But anyone over 25 yrs old could remember what things were like under the Taliban. The US reprehensibly invaded their country, and then sold them a bill of goods. If you didn’t see it as a failed effort from the beginning, well, the writing was on the wall 5, 10, or 15 years in.

So some folk rolled the dice. They figured things were good enough as they were, to outweigh the costs of relocating before they absolutely had to. Turns out a lot of those folk misjudged how much time they had.

Yeah, being a refugee or asylum seeker 2 or 5 years ago woulda sucked. But would it have sucked more or less than their current situation?

In many instances, the US is in the same position WRT the Afghanis, as Delta House was to Flounder. “You fucked up. You trusted us!”

Because getting permission to enter another country isn’t as easy as so many people seem to think it is?

There are only 26 countries in the world that someone with an Afghan passport can go to without a long and lengthy application process, even on vacation, much less long term. They include such tourist destinations as Haiti, which is likely no one’s first choice as a safe haven between the poverty, earthquakes, and political upheavals. Just because an Afghani can apply for a visa does not mean that person will get one. Every single one of those non-visa required nations (assuming someone just wants to get the hell out of dodge) require that the Afghani first transit through at least one other nation that does require a lengthy process for them to enter. Thus, the only “easy” route out is via air, and if the commercial flights are cancelled they are well and truly stuck.

This is why so many people wind up as refugees, asylum seekers, or just plain exist in a country illegally - escaping a bad situation is not as easy as people assume it is.

Of course, part of the reason this assumption is made by Americans is that their passports allow them to travel to 187 countries either without a visa or visa-on-arrival.

In summary: Afghans do not have nearly the same freedom to travel internationally as the people of some other nations do.

Sure, that would have been great - except the Trump administration really tightened down the screws on ANYONE coming from Afghanistan and did their best to keep them all out no matter how long they had worked for the US or what they had risked or how loyal to the US they were. Trump announced the US was pulling out but did nothing to expedite approval for the tens of thousands of Afghans who had sided with us and really should have been brought here or helped to travel to another nation outside of Afghanistan. Trump wanted to ban all Muslim immigrants. Among many other things. Really, you could write a book about Trump’s anti-immigration policies. He wanted only rich (presumably White) Europeans to come to the US. See his comment about “shit hole countries”. For damn sure he had no intention of bringing Afghans to the US.

On the other hand, as soon as Biden took office and decided that yes, we would pull out of Afghanistan his administration could have taken steps to fix a lot of the problems left by the prior administration so the eventual pull out would have been less of a flustercluck, but for whatever reason he didn’t.

The Afghanis weren’t the ones in charge of deciding who the US would offer visas to, were they? Let alone deciding policies like giving them free flights and shelter.

Also remember that covid significantly reduced the options for international travel for over a year before the collapse.

Well, when is the last time things in Afgh were hunky dory? Was it under the Soviets? Under the Taliban after? How long (and lengthy ;)) is this process to go ANYWHERE (not just US)?

I agree that it is a challenging issue of how to assist individuals who live in - um - challenging countries. Before we lay too much responsibility on Trump’s doorstep, he was only in charge for 4 yrs. Prior to that, we had 8 yrs of Obama and 6-7 of W in which we coulda helped Afghans escape. How available was immigration to the US - or elsewhere - during that time?

Of course, the US has never had any sensible immigration policy, and has generally been reluctant to welcome refugees.