200,000 Afghans left to their fate, still await evacuation to West
Afghans who collaborated with NATO forces in their own country are left behind by their employers to face their own fate in Pakistan.
Around 200,000 people who worked with the NATO alliance occupation forces under former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled to Pakistan when the Taliban took power and are still helplessly waiting to be evacuated to the United States and other Western countries, putting a strain on the economy, according to Pakistani Defense Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif, who spoke to the US magazine Newsweek on Saturday.
"And recently when NATO forces retreated from Afghanistan and most of the people who worked with the NATO forces during Ashraf Ghani's regime, they are, if I'm not wrong, close to 200,000 families living in Pakistan waiting to be evacuated to the United States or other Western countries. So, a burden on our economy burden ... It's so overstretched, it has become impossible for us," Asif said.
At the same time, he observed that, despite failures in the history of Pakistan-US relations, the authorities cherish cooperation with Washington, and the two nations remain important commercial partners.
The Taliban took control in August 2021, deposing the US-backed government just as Western soldiers were chaotically withdrawing from the country after nearly 20 years of military occupation.
Earlier this year, Afghan refugees protested in Pakistan's capital on January 13, as an American program to assist in the relocation of at-risk Afghans fleeing after the hasty US withdrawal stalled.
The US government's Priority 1 and Priority 2 refugee programs, known as P1 and P2, were allegedly designed to expedite visas for "at-risk Afghans", including journalists and human rights advocates, following the hasty US withdrawal, but the process proves it is far from any expedition.
Individuals qualified must have worked in Afghanistan for the US government, a US-based media organization, or a nongovernmental group, and must have been referred by a US-based employer.
Applicants in Pakistan have been waiting for more than a year and a half for US officials to process their visa applications. Because of the delay in processing visas and resettlement, Afghan applicants are in a highly vulnerable situation in Pakistan, where they face economic hardship and a lack of access to health, education, and other facilities.