Afghan refugees adapt to life in America, one year after chaotic withdrawal of US troops


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This article is part of a Fox News Digital series examining the consequences of the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan one year ago this week.

In August 2021, the world watched with dismay as the United States, after a nearly 20-year occupation of Afghanistan, chaotically withdrew its forces and enabled the Taliban to quickly reclaim control of the war-torn country.

One year later, many Afghans who – despite the odds – fled their homeland have learned to adapt to a new life in the United States.

U.S soldiers stand guard along a perimeter at the international airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Aug. 16, 2021. 
(AP Photo/Shekib Rahmani)

One of those refugees is Hamid Wahedy, 36, who worked with U.S. troops for six years as an IT specialist, providing internet service. 

With a wife and two kids – and another on the way – he is now living and working in New Hampshire in a small community of 100 to 120 fellow Afghans. 

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“I’m feeling happy that I’m here. My family is able to walk everywhere in peace without any issues. My kids are able to go to school, and they will study well,” Wahedy said. 

As much as he would like to go back, Wahedy knows that he would not be safe and worries about the future of his country. 

“The future of Afghanistan is not good. The dark years are coming. I’m not hopeful. (The Taliban) are not the ones who are running Afghanistan peacefully,” Wahedy said. 

Another Afghan, Helal Massomi, was evacuated to the U.S. after Kabul fell to the Taliban – a memory she described as “the worst experience” of her life. Because of her activism and high profile in Afghanistan, she knew that put her at risk. 

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Massomi eventually settled in Washington, D.C., after obtaining a humanitarian parole visa, which is used on a case-by-case basis for “urgent humanitarian or significant public benefit.” She applied for asylum and a work permit – a process that took nearly nine months to get sorted.  

“No one was willing to give me a job and no one would trust me,” Massomi said. 

If it were not for the host family she is staying with, Massomi said, she likely would not have gotten any support from the government. Still, she considers herself one of the lucky ones, having studied abroad and having a firm grasp of English. 

“Around 83,000 people have arrived in the U.S. and most of them, they don’t know English, and they haven’t had any experience working or living in any other country,” Massomi said. “I know a lot of people who have come here, and they’ve had culture shock. Since the day they arrived here, they’re not familiar with the culture, with the language, with the ways of doing stuff here.” 

Crowds are seen Thursday outside of Kabul airport prior to the deadly suicide bombing.

Crowds are seen Thursday outside of Kabul airport prior to the deadly suicide bombing.
(Reuters)

Earlier this month, a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers in the House and Senate introduced the Afghan Adjustment Act, a bill that would give a pathway to citizenship to the tens of thousands of Afghan evacuees. 

The legislation would allow Afghans with temporary humanitarian status to apply for permanent legal residency in the United States – rather than through the asylum system or Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) process. The bill would also broaden eligibility for the SIV visa, which is designated for allies who aided the American military operation in the country.

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Another Afghan who to spoke to Fox News, Anahita Walizada, 22, had a prominent career as a journalist with Zawia Media when she was forced to flee her country. 

“For me, leaving home was really hard. I’m thousands of miles away from my home,” she said. “For my generation, from boys to women, it’s not believable to go back (to Afghanistan) because of the Taliban.” 

For now, she is focusing on her studies as she adjusts to life in the U.S. and has even landed a role in an independent film as a lead actress – while still contributing to Afghan media. 

Anahita Walizada adapting to her new life in the U.S.

Anahita Walizada adapting to her new life in the U.S.
(Nasim Dadfar via Anahita Walizada)

“I want to be free. I want to be a woman that decides her rights, that decides what she wants to do, and how she wants to work,” Walizada said. “There’s a lot of opportunity for women. So, when I arrived here, I started studying and started learning a new language. That wasn’t easy for me. I started studying, I worked in a movie as a lead actress, and I started a new journey here – free, and being a good human.”  

Walizada’s sister, Taban Ibraz, told Fox News the past year has been tough for the community, but they are determined to persevere. 

“We tried to adjust. For me, it was to heal first, because we lost everything that we worked for. We fought for that. And all those years we tried to change something in Afghanistan and worked for peace, for human rights and, especially, women’s rights,” Ibraz said. 

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Each Afghan who spoke to Fox News, however, expressed disappointment and frustration with how the U.S. handled the withdrawal and evacuation. 

“It was in the same condition when U.S. troops came to Afghanistan (in 2001). And then they left, and a terrorist group took over,” Massomi said. “And the international community has disappointed the people of Afghanistan in many ways.” 

Wahedy said the withdrawal of U.S. troops and evacuation of Afghans could have been handled much better. 

“I wish (the U.S.) started earlier and evacuated everyone peacefully without any problem,” he said. 

Ibraz, Massomi, Wahedy and Walizada each said they did not want to burden the U.S. and, if it were up to them, they would be living in their home country.   

Helal Massomi with a cup of coffee in Washington, D.C.

Helal Massomi with a cup of coffee in Washington, D.C.
(Helal Massomi )

“Being here in the United States, and trying to start a new life here, was not something that we talked about or wanted. It was not my goal. (Our) goal was to stay in Afghanistan, study there, work for the people, be in media, and try to change something in our history because everything everyone knows about Afghanistan is war,” Walizada said. 

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Massomi said if it were up to her, she also would have stayed in Afghanistan, but is making the best of her new life here, working tirelessly to help other Afghans in the U.S. 

“We came here, and now we’re here. We want our future to be clear,” she said.  “We don’t want to be a burden to the government or to the people of the U.S. We want to stand on our feet. We want to work and contribute to this community.”

Fox News’ Adam Shaw contributed to this report. 



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