Afghan Ladies Who Aided U.S. Navy Look ahead to Asylum in America


It was nearly 3 a.m. in New York, however Nazdana Hassani refused to go to sleep.

She stared at her telephone, closing and refreshing WhatsApp, hoping that her mom’s web had been restored at her residence in Afghanistan.

She tried three extra occasions, however the name wouldn’t undergo.

The final time Ms. Hassani noticed her mom in particular person was August 2021, days earlier than the Taliban seized management of Kabul.

Ms. Hassani, 24, served within the Afghan Nationwide Military’s Feminine Tactical Platoon, a squad of all ladies that accompanied U.S. Particular Operations troops on missions in search of out high-level Taliban, Al Qaeda and ISIS targets. Because the Taliban took over two summers in the past, Ms. Hassani confronted a call: reside below a repressive authorities as a lady who labored alongside the U.S. Military, or flee her residence nation for the USA.

“If I stayed, the Taliban would have killed me and my household,” she mentioned.

Of the 45 Afghan ladies who served in Ms. Hassani’s platoon, 39 escaped amid the chaotic withdrawal of U.S. troops almost two years in the past.

Now Ms. Hassani and most of her platoon are among the many tens of thousands of Afghans residing in the USA as humanitarian parolees, a short lived authorized standing. This month, the Biden administration introduced a plan to permit Afghans to use for a parole extension to allow them to proceed residing and dealing in the USA after their standing expires in August. It’s unclear if the extensions, if granted, can be for 2 years, as they have been the primary time.

For individuals who have been within the platoon, the objective is to remain in the USA long run and to have their households, who’re nonetheless in Afghanistan, be part of them. Ms. Hassani and almost all the platoon members have utilized for asylum — a protected standing for these fearing persecution of their residence nation — however the system is severely backlogged. Solely three of the ladies thus far have been granted asylum, which allows them to acquire a inexperienced card and produce their households over.

Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota, has sponsored the Afghan Adjustment Act, a invoice that might create a authorized pathway for everlasting residency for Afghans who labored alongside Individuals in the course of the Afghanistan battle.

“So lots of our Afghan allies risked their lives and their family members’ security to guard our service members,” Ms. Klobuchar mentioned.

The laws stalled within the final Congress amid Republican issues about the vetting of candidates, however Ms. Klobuchar mentioned she was working with Republicans to construct help for one more try later this 12 months.

Ms. Hassani, who works at a present store in a quiet suburb of Westchester County, N.Y., shares an residence with two Afghan ladies whom she met at a shelter for evacuees in 2021.

The one piece of artwork in Ms. Hassani’s room is a portray propped up by the foot of her mattress.

“I made this once I first got here to the U.S.,” she mentioned. “Some volunteers on the camps gave us paint and canvas.”

Becoming a member of the military was Ms. Hassani’s childhood dream. The youngest member of the platoon, she was born simply months earlier than the beginning of America’s two-decade struggle in Afghanistan.

“I keep in mind my mother telling us, the Individuals, they’re right here for us, they’re good individuals,” Ms. Hassani mentioned.

The concept for Ms. Hassani’s platoon got here a couple of decade into the struggle, when the U.S. navy determined it wanted feminine troops to assist patrol rural villages. It was thought-about culturally insensitive for the male troopers to look or speak to Afghan ladies.

Mary Kolars, an Military captain who labored carefully with the platoon, mentioned having them on missions was invaluable. “That they had details about tribal affiliations, they may have a look at a village and inform us what doesn’t match, they helped us seek for high-ranking targets.”

Right now, many of the platoon members are scattered throughout the USA working minimum-wage service jobs.

Since arriving, Ms. Hassani clings to reminiscences of her adventures within the military.

“I attempt to be pleased about my life right here,” she mentioned. “However my life and job, it’s all simply very totally different now.”

Final month, Ms. Kolars, Ms. Hassani and almost all the platoon members in the USA traveled to Washington, D.C., to lobby Congress to go the Afghan Adjustment Act.

“On daily basis hurts, as a result of I do know that my household shouldn’t be protected in Afghanistan,” Ms. Hassani mentioned.

She and different members of the platoon mentioned they underwent in depth background checks to serve alongside the American navy. The ladies additionally mentioned that they needed to get hold of written permission from male kin to hitch the Afghan Military. These paperwork contained details about the ladies’s households and remained in Afghan authorities recordsdata after Kabul fell.

Most of the ladies mentioned that since then, kin have been threatened, tortured or killed by Talibs, in keeping with Ms. Kolars. She and different American troopers who labored with the platoon mentioned they assume the Taliban has used the paperwork to trace down relations.

“It’s simply onerous, to reside life with this fixed nervousness in regards to the household that’s again residence,” mentioned Jawida Afshari, 34, who served within the platoon for almost a decade and who helped practice recruits, together with Ms. Hassani.

Each ladies interviewed for asylum final October — Ms. Afshari was granted asylum, whereas Ms. Hassani’s software remains to be pending.

Ms. Afshari, who works at a Chick-fil-A close to her Dallas residence complicated, mentioned she usually finds herself eager about life earlier than Kabul fell. She had been weeks away from acquiring a legislation diploma at Kabul College.

“I’m so fortunate, as a result of the ladies in Afghanistan, they will’t work at eating places, they will’t go away the home,” Ms. Afshari mentioned. “However it may be onerous to recollect how lengthy I labored and studied at residence, and the way that was all taken away so shortly.”

Whereas she waits for the chance to use for a inexperienced card, Ms. Afshari tries to carve out pockets of pleasure from her life in Dallas. Most of her neighbors are immigrants from Iraq and Mexico. “None of us can communicate English, however we discover a method to speak,” she mentioned with amusing.

The day she found an Arabic grocery retailer close by that shares halal meats, Ms. Afshari cooked a feast of Afghan shawarma for her neighbors.

Mahnaz Akbari, the commander of the platoon, additionally doesn’t have asylum. She has used her English language expertise to work for a nonprofit in Washington. She mentioned she tries to maintain morale excessive even when the ladies are exhausted, usually via group video calls.

Whereas cooking dinner in her Silver Spring, Md., residence final week, Ms. Akbari propped up her telephone on the kitchen counter, ready for platoon members on the West Coast to hitch.

Throughout these calls, the ladies alternate photographs, share Afghan recipes that may be made utilizing American groceries and advise each other on questions on life in the USA. What number of bank cards are you imagined to open? Goes to the D.M.V. as dangerous as individuals say? Ms. Hassani mentioned these calls have grow to be a lifeline.

Within the weeks after her asylum interview, Ms. Hassani was consumed by nervousness, questioning why there had been no replace on her case. She stored replaying the interview in her head, questioning if she had by some means made a misstep. Ms. Hassani mentioned Ms. Akbari’s help helped her keep calm.

“Mahnaz takes time to cheer us up,” she mentioned, “so we don’t quit.”

Luke Broadwater contributed reporting.


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