San Diego families who escaped from Afghanistan after getting stranded describe dodging bullets and being attacked by Taliban

 Several San Diego families who managed to escape from Afghanistan after finding themselves trapped by the Taliban following President Joe Biden's chaotic US military withdrawal have spoken out about their harrowing ordeals, which for some entailed dodging bullets, being stopped at Taliban checkpoints and assaulted at Kabul airport.  

Out of the eight families from the San Diego suburb of El Cajon that had become stranded in Afghanistan last month after traveling there over the summer to visit relatives, seven have been evacuated with the help of the local school district and Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, whose district includes El Cajon.     

One family with three children in the El Cajon Unified School District remains trapped in the war-torn country, but Issa said he is working to try to get them out safely. 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said about 6,000 Americans, mostly dual US-Afghan citizens, had been evacuated since August 14, but it is estimated that thousands remained.  

Several evacuees joined Issa and school district officials to speak to reporters on Thursday for the first time since they returned to California. 

Mohammad Faizi, center, speaks during a news conference Thursday in El Cajon, California. He and his family were visiting relatives in Afghanistan in August, and were forced to escape as the Taliban seized power


A father named Yousef, who asked that only his first name be used because he still has relatives in Afghanistan who could be at risk, said that when his wife and their four children boarded a July 15 flight in San Diego to attend her brother's wedding in Afghanistan, they were looking forward to a month of family gatherings. It was long overdue - the coronavirus pandemic prevented them from traveling earlier.

Their return ticket was August 15, two days before their children's school year began in El Cajon, California, which has a large refugee population. 

Palwasha Faizi, 10, above left, stands behind her sister, Parwana Faizi, 7, and alongside her father, Mohammad Faizi. One of the girls said she was scared and cold while waiting for evacuation

Palwasha Faizi, 10, above left, stands behind her sister, Parwana Faizi, 7, and alongside her father, Mohammad Faizi. One of the girls said she was scared and cold while waiting for evacuation

But the Afghan-Americans found themselves dodging gunfire and trying to force their way into the crowds of thousands ringing the airport in Kabul after Afghanistan's government collapsed and the Taliban seized power.

Yousef's wife and children were among eight families from El Cajon who were trapped after US troops raced to evacuate Americans and allies and then left the country. Yousef had stayed in California during his family's trip.

Other parents described running with their kids as gunfire whizzed overhead and being blocked at checkpoints manned by Taliban fighters. 

One father, who previously worked as a translator for the US military, said he was hit in the back by the Taliban while trying to enter the airport. With the help of a friend, he was able to find a different way into the airport. After waiting for more than 10 hours, the father managed to approach a US Marine and show him his American passport.

'They grabbed my hands and grabbed my family's hands,' he recalled his escape.

Mohammad Faizi, who attended the press conference with two of his five children, said that he also was stopped at a Taliban roadblock and questioned, reported KUSI

'"Why are you guys leaving Afghanistan?"' Faizi said the Taliban asked him. '"Why are you guys not staying here with US?" I told them that's our country, that's my nation, we're leaving here.' 

Faizi said his family spent days at the airport before finally boarding a plane. One of his daughters said she was scared and cold, reported 10News

'We went to Uzbekistan, they took us to Uzbekistan, after they took us to Germany, after Germany New York, after New York finally we get home,' Faizi recounted. 

A former US military translator said he was hit in the back by the Taliban while waiting to be evacuated from Kabul airport

A former US military translator said he was hit in the back by the Taliban while waiting to be evacuated from Kabul airport 

One of the speakers at the press conference with Rep Issa in El Cajon on Thursday

One of the speakers at the press conference with Rep Issa in El Cajon on Thursday 

The parents said they are grateful to be back but their children have suffered nightmares, and they worry about the family that was unable to get out, along with countless others still stuck there, including distant relatives.

Yousef said he felt helpless being in California, thousands of miles away, fearing the life they had built would come to a halt and his wife and children would be trapped in the country ruled by the Taliban. He, his wife and children are all U.S. citizens. They came to the United States on a special immigrant visa after Yousef worked for the U.S. government in Afghanistan.

After they failed to get into the airport on August 15, his wife and kids returned to their relative's home.

Yousef alerted his family from El Cajon that the US Embassy in Kabul was advising people not to go to the airport because of threats.

Eight hours later, suicide bombers set off explosions at the airport, killing 13 US troops and more than 170 others.

Rep Darrell Issa, a Republican, estimated that there are likely some 1,000 Americans still stranded in Afghanistan

Rep Darrell Issa, a Republican, estimated that there are likely some 1,000 Americans still stranded in Afghanistan  

In this image provided by the U.S. Marine Corps, evacuees wait to board a Boeing C-17 Globemaster III during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan on Monday

In this image provided by the U.S. Marine Corps, evacuees wait to board a Boeing C-17 Globemaster III during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan on Monday

Yousef said Issa's team arranged a time for his family to go to the airport with an escort from U.S. authorities.

'It was like a situation room,' Yousef said of talking to Issa's team while navigating his family through the chaos from afar. 'I was sitting here talking to them. They were sending their locations and stuff like this.'

His family returned home Friday. The first thing he did was take them to IHOP, their favorite restaurant.

He hopes more of those happy moments will overtake the traumatic memories his kids hold. His 7-year-old son, his youngest, has been talking about the violence.

'They are talking about it, about the gunfire, and being scared of the Taliban, but we hope they forget all that' and return to their life as regular American kids, Yousef said.

But he asked people not to forget about so many others, including US citizens, green card holders and Afghans who are at risk because they helped the American government. He held in his hand a folder that he said contained the documents of 30 people who qualified for a special immigrant visa and should be in the United States but are still in Afghanistan, desperate to escape.

President Biden has said between 100 and 200 Americans were left behind when US troops completed their withdrawal August 31, many of them dual citizens. The State Department has given no estimate for others who hope to leave Afghanistan, including US green card holders and people who received the special visas because they helped Americans during the 20-year war. 

Issa said on Thursday he believes the number to be much higher for US citizens and the others.

In this August 24 photo, families walk towards their flight during ongoing evacuations at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul

In this August 24 photo, families walk towards their flight during ongoing evacuations at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul

A U.S. Navy sailor fixes the broken shoe of a young Afghan evacuees after disembarking a flight from Kabul on arrival at Naval Air Station Rota, Spain, on Monday

A U.S. Navy sailor fixes the broken shoe of a young Afghan evacuees after disembarking a flight from Kabul on arrival at Naval Air Station Rota, Spain, on Monday

He put the number of people who wished to get out of Afghanistan but were unable to at about 1,000, including 250 that his office has been in direct contact with and who are currently in hiding.    

Many of the families he helped get back to California in the past week are green card holders. Some are US citizens. 

'We're delighted to have these kids back in school and their parents united, but we also know that there's a lot more work to do,' Issa said.

More than 30 California children are known to be stuck in Afghanistan, including 27 students from San Juan Union School District, and three from the Sacramento School District. 

The U.S. ended its evacuation efforts and withdrew its forces on Monday. 

San Diego families who escaped from Afghanistan after getting stranded describe dodging bullets and being attacked by Taliban San Diego families who escaped from Afghanistan after getting stranded describe dodging bullets and being attacked by Taliban Reviewed by STATION GOSSIP on 08:25 Rating: 5

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