US-evacuated Afghans stuck in Balkan camp
Refugees who fled from Afghanistan amid the chaotic US withdrawal from the country are stuck in the Balkans 10 months later, pending vetting from the US.
The United States in August withdrew from Afghanistan and left many of its allies behind for the Taliban, the group whom they conspired against after it took control of the country that spent two decades under US occupation.
Washington, however, did not leave all of its allies behind amid its chaotic withdrawal from the country, airlifting thousands out of Afghanistan to "safety"... or so they thought.
For many Afghans evacuated as the US lost its influence in their country, their journey to the United States has been stalled, even ended, perhaps, at a makeshift refugee camp erected via a cluster of tents on an American base in the Balkans.
The United States forgot some families in Kosovo, diverting them to Camp Bondsteel, claiming that they need further vetting for security reasons, and they are growing more frustrated as time out of their lives is wasted at the hands of the US administration that left their country in shambles in the first place, requiring them to seek refuge elsewhere.
Out of anger, some Afghans serving their sentence for aiding the US on the country's base in Kosovo staged a protest, holding up signs with messages reading, "We want justice."
"They just keep repeating the same things, that it takes time and we must be patient," one of the Afghans, Muhammad Arif Sarwari, said in a text message from the base.
Though the complaints open a window into an aspect of the US evacuation and resettlement of Afghans, they have garnered little attention because US authorities and the government of Kosovo have been more than reluctant about saying much about the people stranded at Bondsteel, keeping the whole affair wrapped in secrecy.
The base is home to a mix of adults and children because many refugees traveling with family have so far failed to obtain a visa to the US.
Sarwari, a former senior intelligence official with the Afghan government, said there are about 45 people there, representing about 20 or so individual visa cases.
The Biden administration is trying hard to keep the issue wrapped in a mystery, refraining from providing much detail. However, it does acknowledge that some of the refugees did not make it past the so-called "multi-layered, rigorous screening and vetting process" and won't be permitted to enter the United States.
The chaotic nature of the US evacuation from Afghanistan is what prompted Washington to need overseas facilities in the first place, as it could not run its required background checks in the country. As the Afghan government collapsed, thousands made it onto military transport planes with minimal screening before arriving at one of several overseas transit points.
The people sent to Bondsteel were diverted for various reasons, including missing or flawed documents or security concerns that stemmed from the FBI and Department of Homeland Security vetting abroad.