Opinion | An Afghan Left Behind Tells His Story

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For the past two weeks, many of us have been witnessing the agonizing sights of desperate Afghans trying to flee their country after the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul. Many Afghans who helped the United States over the past two decades are terrified. They assumed that when the time came and America pulled out of Afghanistan, they would not be left to the mercy of the Taliban. They were wrong.

More than 124,000 people were airlifted out of Afghanistan — the largest noncombatant evacuation in U.S. military history — but the evacuation was chaotic and hurried, which meant that it was, inevitably, incomplete.

For those left behind, life is bleak. We searched for someone who could offer insight into this experience and perhaps give a voice to the thousands of other Afghans who face similarly uncertain fates. Rasheed, who worked with U.S. nonprofits for nearly three years, writes eloquently in this guest essay about his intense fear, as well as his determination for a better future for his children.

While some Afghans have spoken out publicly against the Taliban, many others, including Rasheed, are reluctant to use their full names to avoid retribution. He has been threatened by the Taliban and is still seeking an escape from Afghanistan. This is why The Times is taking the rare step of publishing his essay using only an abbreviated form of his first name. Times Opinion has, in rare cases, published anonymous essays, and given the urgency of the issue that his essay addresses — the fate of America’s Afghan partners — we felt it was appropriate in this case.

Rasheed’s essay went through our usual editing and fact-checking process, and we corroborated his story through a variety of measures, including but not limited to talking to him by video to verify his identity, speaking with colleagues as well as his former employer and reviewing documents and email correspondence with details of his circumstances and the Taliban threats.

There are no easy solutions for Rasheed right now, but his story is essential to understanding the full scope of the repercussions of the American withdrawal from Afghanistan, particularly for those Afghans, like him, who have been left behind.

Yara Bayoumy is the world and national security editor for Opinion. She is a former reporter who focused on stories related to conflict, militancy and geopolitics.

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