WASHINGTON — In the course of 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. On the route of the C.I.A., agency-trained Afghan counterterrorism squads helped patrol the perimeter, safe the gates and get Americans via them.
These Afghan commandos stayed to the tip, and had been among the many final allies to be evacuated. However whilst some 80,000 different Afghan refugees shortly reached america, lots of 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 occasions 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 by which the velocity with which departing Afghans reached america was usually decided by nothing greater than what sort of airplane they left on.
Biden administration officers say they’re on monitor to ultimately come to america.
However the plight of the commandos underscores the problems persevering with to plague the in depth evacuation, vetting and resettlement efforts 5 months after the abrupt Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August.
On the most elementary stage, the entire Afghans who helped the NATO forces through the 20-year Afghanistan struggle and are actually in Abu Dhabi are lucky: They bought out with their households and are secure. Since August, there have been a slew of nonjudicial killings carried out in opposition to former authorities safety drive members who remained in Afghanistan.
However interviews with half a dozen officers concerned within the effort and folks accustomed to the accounts offered by a number of the commandos assist illustrate the most important 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 navy planes are the extra lucky: They had been taken to bases the place offers with host international locations allowed them to remain for only some weeks. After they had been vetted at such short-term transit areas, the Homeland Safety Division invoked a hardly ever used “humanitarian parole” energy to swiftly transfer them to america.
Because of this, practically all of these roughly 80,000 Afghans have now already been in a position to attain america. Most of them have been resettled and are beginning new lives — despite the fact that their functions for everlasting standing with a Particular Immigrant Visa, or S.I.V., are nonetheless being processed.
In contrast, these Afghans who boarded non-American evacuation flights, resembling charters operated by the United Arab Emirates, had been taken to services in host international locations the place they will keep indefinitely, together with the U.A.E.-run compound referred to as Emirates Humanitarian Metropolis. A good portion of its roughly 9,000 refugee residents are C.I.A.-trained fighters and their households, in keeping with folks accustomed to the matter.
A overwhelming majority of 1000’s of C.I.A.-trained fighters and their households have already been relocated to america, American officers stated. However that has made the ready for the lots of in United Arab Emirates all of the extra painful, in keeping with the previous Afghan commandos.
As a result of these Afghans in locations like Humanitarian Metropolis are secure, america is processing them via common bureaucratic order, officers stated. Because of this, they’re being required to attend there till their S.I.V. functions are accomplished — which might take many months. Necessities for vaccinations and medical assessments can additional sluggish the method.
Biden administration officers had been reluctant to speak about or acknowledge the C.I.A.-backed squads particularly. However they insisted that each one the evacuees in Humanitarian Metropolis and different international locations could be handled pretty.
“We’re working to develop a standardized course of that ensures we make good on our commitments to our Afghan allies,” Emily Horne, a Nationwide Safety Council spokeswoman, stated in an announcement. “We can’t underestimate the nervousness that they and their households should really feel. These of us engaged on this need to alleviate that nervousness as greatest we will and make good on our nation’s pledge to them.”
One official stated that about 500 S.I.V. candidates per week attain a stage within the course of the place the State Division locations them in a queue for eventual switch to america, and that a few quarter of the inhabitants of refugees in Humanitarian Metropolis is now at that stage.
However that official additionally stated even for that group, it was more likely to be a number of extra months at greatest earlier than these candidates would full different steps within the visa course of. One other official stated it was more likely to be one other 5 months earlier than the C.I.A. fighters and their households had been in a position to come to america.
The fighters are not like most different refugees in numerous respects, not least the important thing function they performed in working with the C.I.A. on the counterinsurgency and counterterrorism campaigns, by which they had been usually despatched to kill or seize high-profile targets resembling these within the Taliban’s violent Haqqani community and Al Qaeda.
Their American trainers noticed them as environment friendly and dependable at preventing the Taliban. However 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 “severe abuses” between 2017 and 2019.
Tammy Ok. Thorp, the chief spokeswoman for the C.I.A., stated america takes accusations of human rights abuses critically, however the allegations in opposition to the company’s companions in Afghanistan had been merely not true. “A false narrative exists about these forces that has endured through the years resulting from a scientific propaganda marketing campaign by the Taliban,” she stated.
A number of 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 struggle, 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 achieved by the Afghans at the side of the C.I.A.
And after The New York Occasions started asking questions concerning the group, American officers have tried to reassure them that they are going to get visas to enter america within the subsequent three to 6 months, in keeping with folks briefed on the conversations.
That two-tiered system by which some Afghans should full their visa course of earlier than coming into, one other official stated, displays the size 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 navy bases awaiting matching with resettlement businesses 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 return to america 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 extra screening, together with kin staying with them.
However whilst American officers counsel persistence, those that discover themselves nonetheless ready within the desert outdoors Abu Dhabi are rising annoyed. These emotions seem notably sharp among the many counterterrorism models, who say they served america at vital private danger to the tip — whilst different models surrendered to the Taliban or melted into the countryside.
“These guys ought to get credit score for doing what they did for 20 years — struggle our frequent 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. However he stated america, inside procedures, ought to velocity their passage to America.
In conversations with People, the fighters have described situations in Humanitarian Metropolis as strained and more and more disagreeable, including to their sense of being forgotten.
The power is actually a set of makeshift lodges designed for short-term stays. It was established in 2003, initially to be a hub to assist help employees touring to catastrophe areas. Final August, the Emirates agreed to host 5,000 evacuees at Humanitarian Metropolis, although way more are there now.
Whereas meals is plentiful, folks accustomed to the each day lives of residents stated it had been a supply of recurring complaints among the many refugees.
Specifically, one of many folks described the meals as cooked and spiced in an Indian model, saying the Afghan evacuees discover it unpalatable. It is usually typically spoiled: The particular person offered The Occasions with photos and movies displaying moldy eggs, spoiled meat, rice served with shreds of paper combined in and rotting potatoes. The particular person stated some youngsters had meals poisoning this month, forcing a brief halt in meal service.
Traces to see a physician to acquire vaccinations required for admission to america or different medical care are hours lengthy, the folks accustomed to residents’ complaints stated, and the medicines are sometimes out of inventory after they search to fill their prescriptions. Many 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 folks from Afghanistan. The Emirates has offered meals and well being providers together with education and leisure actions within the air-conditioned services of Humanitarian Metropolis, the embassy stated. The services in Humanitarian Metropolis had been designed to accommodate folks solely briefly, the embassy stated, and america is main the trouble to switch evacuees.
A senior administration official stated situations in Humanitarian Metropolis had been nearly as good as or higher than these of refugees nonetheless at American navy bases, which have additionally been strained as a result of they weren’t designed to accommodate massive numbers of refugees for a very long time.
However Afghans within the Emirates stated they’d quite be in america whereas going via 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 america.
Former C.I.A. officers who labored with them stated their efforts on behalf of America ought to be acknowledged.
“These guys have actually been preventing each night time for 20 years,” Mr. Mulroy stated. “They’re actually expert. They’ve confirmed themselves.”