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One year ago today, Ahmad left home for work as he always did. As he made his way through Kabul, Afghanistan, he didn't notice anything strange.
At 9:30 a.m., he and his colleagues held a meeting to discuss the worrying cascade of provinces that had fallen to the Taliban in recent days. "Our American manager assured us that nothing will happen at least in the next three months," he says. The meeting concluded at 10:15. By 11, the American manager knocked on his door and told Ahmad to leave the office as soon as possible.
"When I left the campus, I noticed that many armored cars are heading to the airport," he recounts. The Taliban takeover of Kabul was underway, marking the bitter end of America's two-decade war and nation-building effort in Afghanistan. For Ahmad—who asked that his real name not be used, fearing retaliation—it was the beginning of a mad dash for survival under a new regime.
In the year since the Taliban takeover, Ahmad has fled Afghanistan, certain that elements of the new regime would have him killed for his service to the United States. Other helpers have chosen to stay in Afghanistan. All contributed years of their lives to the U.S. military, but they were unable to access the visas Washington promised them—and the escape route that American politicians laid out in Afghanistan's twilight last summer.
"Our message to those women and men is clear," said President Joe Biden in remarks last July. "There is a home for you in the United States if you so choose, and we will stand with you just as you stood with us."
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