Protests Spread to Kabul as Taliban Struggle to Govern

 Protests Spread to Kabul as Taliban Struggle to Govern

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Protesters took to the streets of Afghanistan’s capital on the nation’s annual Independence Day, waving flags in defiance of the Taliban’s rule.CreditCredit…Victor J. Blue for The World Best News

Protesters took to the streets to rally against Taliban rule for the second day on Thursday, this time marching in Kabul, including near the presidential palace. At one demonstration in the city, about 200 people had gathered before the Taliban broke it up violently.

The Taliban announced a curfew in the southeastern city of Khost, also on Thursday, after protests there. The authorities did not say how long it would be in effect.

And several people were killed in the eastern city of Asadabad when Taliban fighters fired on people waving the national flag at a rally there on Thursday, Afghanistan’s annual Independence Day, according to a witness cited by Reuters.

It was not clear whether the casualties had come from the gunshots or from a stampede they set off, the witness, Mohammed Salim, was quoted by the news agency as saying.

It was a remarkable display of defiance, coming just one day after violence broke out at protests in two other cities, with Taliban members shooting into crowds and beating demonstrators.

It was also further evidence that while tens of thousands are now seeking escape, there were many more left behind and determined to have a voice in the kind of country in which they live.

After sweeping so quickly into power, the reality of governing a changed nation is proving as difficult for the Taliban as their military blitz across the nation’s provinces was fast.

Many critical workers are hiding in their homes, fearful of retribution despite promises of amnesty. And services like electricity, sanitation and clean water could soon be affected, aid agencies say.

While the Taliban, for now, have a monopoly on the use of force, there is no functioning police service in any traditional sense. Instead, former fighters are patrolling checkpoints and — in many cases, according to witness accounts — administering the law as they see fit.

The Taliban leadership’s suggestion this week that the brutality that defined their rule two decades ago was a thing of the past has not always been matched by the actions of the foot soldiers on the street.

Taliban members are intensifying a search for people who they believe worked with U.S. and NATO forces, including among the crowds of Afghans outside Kabul’s airport, and have threatened to kill or arrest their family members if they cannot find them, according to a confidential United Nations document.

Afghans, fleeing the country, face violence from the Taliban on the dangerous road to the airport, where the U.S. military has tried to quell the continued chaos. The sound of fighter jets roaring over Kabul was nearly constant on Thursday as more U.S. and international forces raced to evacuate foreign nationals, many still trapped outside the airport.

As they struggle with the immediate crisis, the Taliban is facing threats to the long-term stability of the state. The new regime is finding itself frozen out financially.

The International Monetary Fund said on Wednesday that it would block Afghanistan’s access to about $460 million in emergency reserves, a decision that followed pressure from the Biden administration. An agreement reached in November among more than 60 countries to send Afghanistan $12 billion over the next four years is also in doubt.

The assistance is critical in a country where the U.N. estimates that many are going hungry.

“That’s 14 million people, including two million children who are malnourished,” the World Food Program said in a statement.

Some protests turned violent when demonstrators tried to tear down the new Taliban flag and replace it with the tricolors of the Afghan one.

“Salute those who carry the national flag and thus stand for dignity of the nation and the country,” a top official for the deposed Afghan government, Amrullah Saleh, wrote on Twitter.

In the 20th century, there have been at least 19 iterations of the flag.

Afghanistan — a nation with a brutal history, but also home to beautiful natural wonders and a quilt of cultures — is now the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

The Taliban reasserted its new regime in a tweet on Thursday commemorating the anniversary of independence from British rule more than a century ago.

That anniversary was also the occasion for the street protests, with many calling for independence from Taliban rule.

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Scenes of Chaos at Kabul Airport

Gunshots were fired at Kabul’s airport on Thursday. Since the Taliban took hold of Afghanistan days earlier, the airport has been a scene of chaos and of hopes of freedom.

[Gunshots] “Guys, guys, guys.” “Hey, baby, baby.”

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Gunshots were fired at Kabul’s airport on Thursday. Since the Taliban took hold of Afghanistan days earlier, the airport has been a scene of chaos and of hopes of freedom.

The press of the crowd is the first thing you see. At the top of the frame, a man swings something wildly, and a mass of humanity pushes and pulls.

In the distance, the airport. The only escape. The only place in Kabul not under Taliban control, behind blast walls and desperately out of reach. Then, chaos breaks loose.

New video outside Kabul’s international airport obtained by The World Best News on Wednesday offers a vivid illustration of the peril facing Afghans — even those who worked with the Americans and have been told that they can leave the country — as they try to find a way through an increasingly dangerous and forbidding path to escape.

As people scream, a man holding a small child in his arms flashes across the screen. Gunshots ring out. The camera whirls, briefly catching a glimpse of the sun scorching the sands as people scatter for safety.

More gunshots. A woman crouches in fear. There are people in military uniform, but it is unclear who they are and what control they have. At one point, one seems to aim his weapon not into the sky but at the crowd.

A child wails. All around are clothes, shoes and other possessions, personal items left behind in the mayhem.

The harrowing scenes in the minute-long video are also a glimpse at the broader problem facing the United States and other nations as they work to evacuate not only their own citizens, but also the Afghans who have assisted them during two decades of war.

President Biden had set a deadline of Aug. 31 to get an estimated 10,000 U.S. citizens in Afghanistan to safety. Pressed during an interview with ABC News on Wednesday, he suggested that the deadline might be extended.

“Americans should understand that we’re going to try to get it done before Aug. 31.” But, he then said, “If we don’t, we’ll determine at the time who’s left.”

The situation on the ground suggests that it will be exceedingly difficult to meet that target, not to mention evacuating the tens of thousands of Afghans who have worked with the Americans.

The road to the airport has been particularly dangerous in recent days, with Taliban members patrolling checkpoints. Just after 7 a.m. on Thursday, a Taliban fighter stood on a concrete barricade, holding a radio and a handgun in one hand and shouting. Taxis inched forward along a road lined with abandoned cars.

An Afghan British family waited in the crowd, a mother and daughter wearing black chadors and head scarves, and two sons standing next to suitcases.

Some families waited in taxis. Others got out to walk. Parents carried small children, and a man pounded on the back of a van to keep it from backing into his mother, whom he pushed in a wheelchair.

Correction: 

An earlier version of this article incorrectly referred to the day the video was taken outside Kabul’s international airport. It was taken on Wednesday, not Thursday.

President Biden in the East Room of the White House on Wednesday.
Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The World Best News

President Biden, facing intense criticism over the chaotic push to get Americans and Afghan allies out of Afghanistan, will speak about the evacuation effort on Friday afternoon.

The remarks, planned for 1 p.m., come after days of tumult in and around Hamid Karzai International Airport since the Taliban took Kabul, the Afghan capital. The United States has struggled to quickly process visas for evacuees, and images of Afghans clinging to departing U.S. military aircraft have circulated around the world.

As of Thursday afternoon, the U.S. military had evacuated 7,000 Americans, Afghans and others since the Afghan government began to collapse on Saturday, well short of the 5,000 to 9,000 passengers a day that the military will be able to fly out once the evacuation process is at full throttle, officials said.

As many as 6,000 people — including former interpreters and cultural and political advisers — were also on standby to be flown out of Kabul’s airport early Friday.

Mr. Biden has said he may extend an Aug. 31 deadline he had imposed on the mission if necessary to continue evacuating Americans from the country. But he has defiantly defended his larger decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, while largely avoiding addressing the chaos of the withdrawal itself.

In his first remarks on the crisis on Monday, Mr. Biden argued that he did not order an evacuation of Americans and Afghan allies in Kabul sooner to avoid panic and “a crisis of confidence” in the Afghan government, which collapsed far sooner than expected.

He also placed part of the blame on Afghan allies who “did not want to leave earlier, still hopeful for their country.”

In an interview with ABC News on Wednesday, Mr. Biden said that some of the consequences of the withdrawal were inevitable.

“The idea that somehow, there’s a way to have gotten out without chaos ensuing — I don’t know how that happens,” Mr. Biden said.

Zaki Anwari died at the Kabul airport while trying to flee Kabul, his soccer federation said.
Credit…Afghan Soccer Federation

A member of Afghanistan’s national youth soccer team was among the people who were killed as they tried desperately to cling to a U.S. military plane evacuating people from Kabul this week, the country’s official sports federation said on Thursday.

His name was Zaki Anwari, and he was 17.

On Monday, a crowd of Afghans surged onto the tarmac of the international airport in the frantic scramble to escape a country newly overrun by the Taliban. In a scene that shocked the world, and in just one wrenching moment encapsulated the chaos of America’s exit from Afghanistan, some of them chased aircraft carrying Americans and tried to climb onto their sides, wings and wheels.

The young soccer player was among them, the federation said.

“Anwari was one of hundreds of young people who wanted to leave the country and, in an incident, fell off an American military plane and died,” the group said in a statement on Facebook.

The sports community of Afghanistan was in grief, the statement said. It wished Zaki a place in heaven and offered a prayer that God grant his family, friends and teammates peace and patience as they mourn.

The federation posted photos of Zaki wearing his team’s red jersey — he was No. 10 — and standing on a soccer field. Another photo showed him in a suit and tie. Beside them were photos of an airborne U.S. military plane with what appeared to be a falling body and a single red rose.

Video taken on Monday showed at least two bodies dropping to the ground from an airplane shortly after it took off. The Pentagon confirmed that two people had died falling from the plane, and body parts were also discovered in the landing gear of the aircraft after it landed in Qatar.

In a telephone interview on Thursday from Kabul, Aref Peyman, the head of media relations for the sports federation and for Afghanistan’s Olympic Committee, confirmed Zaki’s death.

Mr. Peyman said Zaki had come from a low-income family in Kabul and had worked hard to achieve his dream of being on the national soccer team while also attending school.

“He was kind and patient, but like so many of our young people he saw the arrival of the Taliban as the end of his dreams and sports opportunities,” Mr. Peyman said. “He had no hope and wanted a better life.”

Many Afghans took to social media to voice shock and anger.

“Shame on the Taliban,” wrote Marzieh Zal on the federation’s Facebook page.

“Rest in peace dear Zaki, I cannot believe you are not with us anymore,” wrote Mohammad Sharif Ahmadi in another post.

The rapid collapse of Afghanistan to Taliban control set off panic among many Afghans, including athletes, who feared that a return of extremist religious rule would bring about the end of their careers and other opportunities.

One Olympic athlete, the sprinter Kamia Yousufi, 25, who carried Afghanistan’s flag at the opening ceremony in Tokyo, has since fled to Iran, media reports said. Mr. Peyman confirmed those reports.

President Biden has come under sharp criticism for how the U.S. military has withdrawn from Afghanistan after a 20-year occupation. Mr. Biden has defended his handling of the exit. In an ABC News interview, he was also asked about the people who died clinging onto the plane and dismissed the question.

“That was four days ago, five days ago,” he said.

Ahmed Azizi, who worked as an interpreter for the U.S. military in Afghanistan, at his home in Martinez, Calif., on Wednesday.
Credit…Mike Kai Chen for The World Best News

MARTINEZ, Calif. — Last week Ahmed Azizi, a former interpreter for U.S. Special Forces in Afghanistan, was in Kabul, embracing his parents and an entourage of two dozen brothers, cousins and nephews who tearfully waved and wondered when they might see him again.

Now he finds himself in a neat two-story home with brown shutters in a California subdivision. He and his wife, Tamanna Rasteen, both 28, are a few blocks from a freeway that whisks them off to downtown San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Mr. Azizi is one of hundreds of interpreters and aid workers who assisted the U.S. government during the war and who have made it out of the country as the Afghan government collapsed. Thousands more remain in Afghanistan.

Mr. Azizi’s American story so far: He is a Muslim man sponsored by a Jewish organization living across the street from an evangelical church. “Life is beautiful,” Mr. Azizi said in an interview.

It has been a dizzying journey. Mr. Azizi said he did not realize — no one realized, he said — that as he was leaving Afghanistan it was on the precipice of a regime change. When his plane took off on Aug. 10, the country had a government. When he arrived in California late last week, Afghanistan was in shambles.

Three days later, as he was settling into life in California, the Taliban — the enemy he had helped fight for three years — had declared victory.

As Taliban fighters patrolled the streets of Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital, some Afghans tried to go about their daily lives, even as many more sheltered at home.

Abandoned military uniforms at the Kabul airport on Monday.
Credit…Wakil Kohsar/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Thousands of Afghan security force members have managed to make it to other countries over the past few weeks as the Taliban rapidly seized the country. Others negotiated surrenders and went back to their homes — and some kept their weapons and joined the winning side.

They were all part of the sudden atomization of the national security forces that the United States and its allies spent tens of billions of dollars to arm, train and stand against the Taliban, a two-decade effort at institution-building that vanished in just a few days.

But tens of thousands of other Afghan soldiers, commandos and spies who fought to the end have been left behind.

They are now on the run, hiding and hunted by the Taliban.

“There’s no way out,” Farid, an Afghan commando, said in a text message to an American soldier who had fought with him. He said he was hiding in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan, trapped after the regular army units surrendered around him. “I am praying to be saved.”

Accounts of the Taliban searching for people they believe worked with and fought alongside U.S. and NATO forces are beginning to trickle out. The militants are threatening to arrest or punish family members if they cannot find the people they are seeking.

Hundreds gathered Monday near a U.S. Air Force C-17 transport plane at the perimeter of the international airport in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Credit…Shekib Rahmani/Associated Press

For hours, they waited on the tarmac in the relentless heat, children and suitcases and strollers in tow, hoping for a flight to freedom that would not come. More than 200 Afghans from all walks of life — cooks, gardeners, translators, drivers, journalists — gathered on the runway of the Kabul airport, seeking escape from a country whose government had collapsed with shocking speed.

When Taliban forces surged into the crowded airport, the group — local employees of The World Best News, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, along with their relatives — heard gunfire. They quickly scattered, eventually returning to homes where their safety could not be assured.

It would be several long days until some members of the group were able to secure passage on Thursday out of Afghanistan — an exfiltration that came after a global rescue effort stretching from American newsrooms to the halls of the Pentagon to the emir’s palace in Doha, Qatar. One Times correspondent, a former U.S. Marine, who had been evacuated earlier but returned on a military plane to assist his Afghan colleagues, stayed inside the airport to help coordinate the escape.

The group’s ordeal was one of many that played out over the past week in Afghanistan, where citizens who worked side by side with Western journalists for years — helping to inform the world about the travails of their nation — now fear for their safety and that of their families under the Taliban. Media outlets from around the world have called on high-level diplomats and on-the-ground fixers to help their employees escape a situation that none expected to unfold so brutally, so quickly.

As the situation in Afghanistan deteriorated in recent days, the publishers of The Times, The Journal and The Post banded together on their evacuation efforts. Security personnel and editors shared information on morning calls. The publishers called on the Biden administration to help facilitate the passage of their Afghan colleagues, and discussions ensued with officials at the White House, the Pentagon and the State Department.

Annie Karni and Michael Crowley contributed reporting.

Afghans trying to enter the military side of the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on Thursday.
Credit…Victor J. Blue for The World Best News

WASHINGTON — Armed fighter jets are making passes over Kabul and the Hamid Karzai International Airport as part of the effort to secure the massive evacuation of American citizens and allies from Afghanistan, the Pentagon said Thursday.

The Pentagon press secretary, John F. Kirby, said the flights, which have been going on since Kabul fell to the Taliban on Sunday, are meant to provide air support for the evacuation. But the warplanes are not making “low passes,” he said, and are providing only what he called “overwatch.”

“We will use all of the tools in our arsenal to achieve the goal” of protecting Americans, Mr. Kirby said.

As of Thursday, the Pentagon said, some 7,000 Americans and other evacuees, including Afghan allies of the United States, have been airlifted out of the airport. Maj. Gen. William Taylor told reporters on Thursday that there are multiple gates at the airport now open.

That is still well short of the 5,000 to 9,000 passengers a day that the military can fly out once the evacuation process is at full throttle, Defense officials said.

On Thursday, the State Department said there 6,000 people at the Kabul airport fully processed and waiting to board planes

There have been reports of non-American evacuation flights leaving with many empty seats, a sign of the difficulties facing the thousands of people trying to make their way to the airport to flee Afghanistan. The Pentagon has warned the Taliban not to interfere with the evacuation.

Americans who get to the airport have been making it into the compound, a Pentagon official said. But Afghan allies have run into problems, both getting through Taliban checkpoints on the road to the airport and getting into the gates once they arrive.

A Taliban fighter walking past a beauty salon in Kabul on Wednesday.
Credit…Wakil Kohsar/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The Taliban have pledged that women in Afghanistan will have rights “within the bounds of Islamic law,” or Shariah, under their newly established rule. But it is not clear what that will mean.

Shariah leaves considerable room for interpretation. When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan in the past, they imposed a strict one, barring women from working outside the home or leaving the house without a male guardian, eliminating schooling for girls, and publicly flogging people who violated the group’s morality code.

The insurgents have not yet said how they intend to apply it now. But millions of Afghan women fear a return to the past ways.

Here are the basics of what to know about Shariah and how it could factor into the Taliban’s treatment of women.

Shariah is based on the Quran, stories of the Prophet Muhammad’s life and the rulings of religious scholars, forming the moral and legal framework of Islam. The Quran details a path to a moral life, but not a specific set of laws.

One interpretation of Shariah could afford women extensive rights, while another could leave women with few. Critics have said that some of the Taliban restrictions on women under the guise of Islamic law actually went beyond the bounds of Shariah.

The interpretations of Shariah are a matter of debate across the Muslim world, and all groups and governments that base their legal systems on Shariah have done so differently. When the Taliban say they are instituting Shariah law, that doesn’t mean they are doing so in ways that Islamic scholars or other Islamic authorities would agree with.

Shariah lists some specific crimes, such as theft and adultery, and punishments if accusations meet a standard of proof. It also offers moral and spiritual guidance, such as when and how to pray, or how to marry and divorce.

It does not forbid women to leave home without a male escort or bar them from working in most jobs.

When the Taliban controlled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, they banned television and most musical instruments. They established a department for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice based on a Saudi model.

Restrictions on behavior, dress and movement were enforced by the morality police officers who drove around in pickup trucks, publicly humiliating and whipping women who did not adhere to their rules. In 1996, a woman in Kabul had the end of her thumb cut off for wearing nail polish, according to Amnesty International.

Women accused of adultery were stoned to death.

Experts have been scanning Taliban leaders’ recent behavior for clues as to whether their treatment of women will change.

When a senior Taliban official gave an interview to a female television journalist in Kabul this week, it was part of a broader campaign by the group to present a more moderate face to the world, and within Afghanistan.

But hours later, a prominent anchorwoman on state television said that the Taliban had suspended her and other women who worked there indefinitely.

A Taliban spokesman said that women would be allowed to work and study, and another official has said that women should participate in government — signaling a possible break with past practices.

But outside Kabul, some women have been told not to leave home without a male relative escorting them and the Taliban have prevented women from entering at least one university. They have also shut down some women’s clinics and schools for girls.

Hosna Jalil, the former deputy minister for women’s affairs in Afghanistan, told Deutsche Welle, a network in Germany, that she had little faith the Taliban would interpret Shariah differently now.

“​​Shariah law for them meant lack of access to education, restricted access to health services, no access to justice, no shelter, no food security, no employment, literally nothing,” she said.

A Taliban news conference after they took control of Kabul.
Credit…Jim Huylebroek for The World Best News

Recognition of a revolutionary authority is never a simple question. After the Bolsheviks took power in Russia in 1917, it was years before its newly established Soviet Union was recognized by Western nations. The United States refused recognition until 1933.

A similar question arises now in Kabul. The Taliban have seized power and have announced that Afghanistan should again be called the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, as it was when the Taliban last ruled the country in the 1990s.

But it has not yet formed a government, and some hope that any government that emerges in fragmented Afghanistan will be more broadly based than just the Taliban itself.

As a rule, governments talk to other governments, and sooner or later recognize them. For now, however, when it comes to Afghanistan, Western countries are holding off.

The question of recognition is expected to come up when Britain and the United States host a virtual meeting of the leaders of the Group of 7 countries, which is expected to take place early next week. On Thursday, G7 foreign ministers held a videoconference to prepare the ground for their leaders, with the crisis in Afghanistan the main topic, and called for the Taliban to respect human rights and protect civilians.

On the ground in Kabul, diplomats and military officers are talking to the Taliban on practical matters — about the airport, about trying to get safe passage to the airport for people who worked with Westerners. And the United Nations and some other nongovernmental organizations are continuing to work in Afghanistan, though the U.N. temporarily moved some of its staff.

But then there is the question of aid.

The United States has gotten the International Monetary Fund to suspend payment of about $370 million set to go to Afghanistan on Aug. 23. The fund cited the “lack of clarity within the international community” over recognizing a government in Afghanistan.

The European Union is also suspending development aid “until we clarify the situation” with Taliban leaders, its foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell Fontelles, said on Tuesday after a meeting of E.U. foreign ministers. Germany has also suspended aid payments.

The European Commission has pledged about €1.2 billion in development assistance for Afghanistan for the 2021-24 period, and member states have individually promised more. Britain, for instance, says it wants to double its humanitarian aid to Afghanistan to 280 million pounds a year, mostly channeled through U.N. agencies.

Mr. Borrell said similarly that “humanitarian help will continue, and maybe we will have an increase,” given the number of displaced Afghans, an ongoing drought and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

“The Taliban have won the war,’’ he said. “So we will have to talk with them in order to engage in a dialogue as soon as necessary to prevent a humanitarian and a potential migratory disaster.”

Talks would also focus, Mr. Borrell said, “on the means to prevent a return of a foreign terrorist presence in Afghanistan.’’

But he insisted that such discussions would be only on pragmatic issues, and that dialogue did not imply formal recognition of the new regime.

“We will deal with the Afghan authorities such as they are, at the same time remaining naturally vigilant of the respect of international obligations,” he said.

Russian troops participating in military exercises with Uzbekistan and Tajikistan this month near the Tajik-Afghan border.
Credit…Didor Sadulloev/Reuters

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan — As the Afghan government collapsed this week in Kabul and the United States scrambled to speed up its evacuation effort, hundreds of Russian armored vehicles and artillery pieces were clearly visible hundreds of miles away, on the border with Tajikistan.

They were part of a high-profile military exercise taking place just 12 miles from a Taliban position, and they were there to make a point, a Russian commander in charge of the exercises said. It will now be Russia, the exercises signaled, that will be shielding Central Asia from potential violence next door.

“They are all visible,” the commander, Gen. Anatoly Sidorov, said. “They are not hiding.”

In the long post-Soviet jostling for power and influence in Central Asia sometimes called the new Great Game, Russia has emerged an ever more dominant player from the chaos and confusion of Afghanistan.

The strengthening of Russia’s position in Central Asian security matters is part of a broader shift brought about by the Taliban’s rise to power. Russia, China and Pakistan all stand to gain influence in regional affairs with the West’s withdrawal, while the United States and India stand to lose.

“I’m thinking of this as a post-Western or post-U.S. space now,” said Alexander Cooley, the director of the Harriman Institute at Columbia University, and an authority on Central Asia. “It’s a region transforming itself without the United States.”

Ho Karimi baking naan at Maiwand market, a frequent gathering point by Afghans in Fremont, Calif., on Monday.
Credit…Mike Kai Chen for The World Best News

Tens of thousands of Afghans have resettled in the United States in the two decades since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, some of them arriving as recently as a few days ago.

This week they described the anguished conversations with the family members they left behind and the piercing fear that the Taliban, the country’s new masters, might retaliate against their relatives.

“What is going to happen to them if they get a knock on the door?” said Rizwan Sadat, who flew into the United States from Afghanistan last week after a career working for U.S. and international aid agencies. “Our hearts are crying for them, for our brothers, for our sisters, for our mothers.”

Mohammad Sahil, a former employee at the United States Agency for International Development in Afghanistan who resettled in Sacramento several years ago, said the images of desperate residents clinging to airplanes in Kabul could seem almost unreal to Americans.

“But this is real for us,” he said. “We haven’t slept, we haven’t eaten. I can’t work.”

At least 132,000 foreign-born Afghan immigrants were living in the United States as of 2019, according to the American Community Survey, along with younger generations who were born in the United States.

“We’ve all left a little piece of ourselves in Afghanistan,” said Khaled Hosseini, the author of the 2003 best seller “The Kite Runner,” who settled in San Jose four decades ago. “Although we have established lives in the United States, we have an emotional stake in what happens in Afghanistan.”

Relatives told them that the Taliban were roving door to door to question people about their connections to Americans. One man described how a former colleague was sleeping in a different home every night to evade interrogation.

Relatives have deleted photos and messages from their phones, anticipating that they might be seized.

The cultural heart of the Afghan community in the United States is Fremont, Calif., a bedroom community on the edge of Silicon Valley where Tesla assembles its electric cars.

Representative Ro Khanna, the congressman whose district includes part of Fremont, estimates that 100,000 Afghans live in the area.

“The question that people keep asking me is why couldn’t they have evacuated people before they pulled out troops,” Mr. Khanna said.

Afghanistan’s all-girl robotics team working on a project aimed at detecting embedded mines, at their lab in Herat in April.
Credit…Jalil Rezayee/EPA, via Shutterstock

Some members of an Afghan girls’ robotics team that captured international attention have arrived in Qatar, the group says, joining a growing number of people fleeing the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan.

Members of the team left Kabul on a commercial flight on Tuesday and will remain in Qatar to continue their education, according to a statement on Wednesday by the team’s founder, the Afghan tech entrepreneur Roya Mahboob.

Other girls on the robotics team, Afghanistan’s first, planned to remain in the country, where Ms. Mahboob acknowledged that they face a worrying future under the Taliban. The hard-line Islamist movement barred girls from attending school when it last ruled Afghanistan, from 1996 to 2001, and although its leaders say they will allow greater freedoms, many Afghans are skeptical.

“The Taliban have promised to allow girls to be educated to whatever extent allowed by Shariah law,” Ms. Mahboob said. “We will have to wait and see to what that means.”

“Obviously, we hope that women and girls will be allowed to pursue dreams and opportunities under the Taliban,” she said, “because that is what is best for Afghanistan and in fact the world.”

Members of the team left their hometown, Herat, in western Afghanistan, as the Taliban seized territory across the country last week. They were scheduled to fly out of Kabul on Monday, but amid chaos at the airport, including Afghans crowding the runway and even clambering onto the fuselage of departing planes, their flight and others were canceled.

The team won hearts worldwide in 2017, when six members were denied visas to travel to the United States for a robotics competition, only to be allowed in eventually after a public outcry, a congressional petition and intervention by President Donald J. Trump.

They traveled back and forth between Afghanistan and competitions in North America and Europe for several months until their visas expired, amassing trophies and social media followers.

In 2019, when the Taliban and the United States were working to negotiate a peace agreement, one of the team members, Kawsar Roshan, told The World Best News that a future in which the Taliban denied her an education “would be unbelievable for me.”