California Rep. Darrell Issa announced his office had successfully evacuated an elderly couple trapped in Afghanistan Wednesday
An elderly couple trapped in Afghanistan is returning to San Diego after weeks of being ‘harassed and intimidated’ by the Taliban, a congressman from California reported.
‘This is a cause for celebration and the result of almost countless hours of work under very difficult conditions,’ Rep. Darrell Issa announced in a statement Wednesday.
‘Our team simply would not give up, and today it paid off and we got them home.’
The couple, who are in their 80s, are among the 33 members of his district he says he has helped escape the country after the Taliban seized control. Their names were withheld to protect Afghan relatives still living in the country.
Further details on how they escaped have not been shared, in an attempt to keep future evacuees safe. Americans and Afghan refugees have managed to flee on charter flights and overland to neighboring countries.
Issa’s office reported that the couple had tried for weeks to get through Taliban checkpoints in Kabul and board a plane home, but were ‘harassed and intimidated’ by the militant group during their attempts.
Their evacuation came after granddaughter Zahul, whose last name was also withheld for security reasons, reached out to Issa’s office to report their plight.
The couple, who were in their 80s, had reportedly tried for weeks to board a plane at Kabul’s airport, but were stopped an harassed at Taliban checkpoints. Taliban guards can be seen manning a checkpoint outside the airport on Monday
Issa has accused the Biden administration of abandoning Americans in Afghanistan
His office did not say how the couple was able to escape the country.
Roughly 100 Americans are still believed to be trapped in Afghanistan since the chaotic American withdrawal concluded on August 30, and want to leave, Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Congress this week.
‘While we have made extraordinary progress, but we’re not stopping until everyone comes home,’ Issa, who represents the San Diego area, said in a statement.
He has accused the Biden administration of abandoning Americans, including a number of his constituents in the country.
‘I represent two incredibly brave American citizens stranded in Afghanistan,’ he tweeted on August 31.
‘They are both more than 80 years old. I can guarantee President Biden they did not wish to stay behind. They were left behind.’
Issa has disputed claims by Secretary of State Antony Blinken (right) that there are around 100 Americans still stranded in Afghanistan, saying there are closer to 500
He said earlier this month that in addition to the elderly couple, he was working to evacuate another family with three children who live in his congressional district in California.
The US evacuated about 122,300 people from Afghanistan including 5,500 American citizens since the sudden collapse of the country on August 14 in the face of a Taliban onslaught.
The crush to escape through the Kabul airport turned deadly on August 26, when a suicide bombing outside its gates killed 13 US servicemembers and 169 Afghan civilians.
Issa has disputed the official US figure of about 100 citizens still stranded in Afghanistan, saying he believes the number is closer to 500 and could be as high as 1,000 if family members of U.S. citizens are included in that count.
Issa has said his office has helped evacuated seven families from Afghanistan. Mohammad Faizi (center) was a member of one of them, and spoke on September 2 after they were able to make their escape
He claims many Americans weren’t counted just because they expressed to the U.S. concerns over ‘leaving behind family members to die.’
In total, eight families from the El Cajon neighborhood of San Diego had been trapped in Afghanistan last month after traveling there over the summer to visit relatives.
Palwasha Faizi, 10, above left, stands behind her sister, Parwana Faizi, 7, and alongside her father, Mohammad
Several of the evacuees joined Issa on September 2 to speak to reporters for the first time since escaping the country.
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 his wife and their four children boarded a July 15 flight in San Diego to attend her brother’s wedding in Afghanistan.
Their return ticket was August 15, two days before their children’s school year began in El Cajon Unified School district, which has a large refugee population.
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.
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.’
Afghan families seen boarding a C-17 Globemaster III transport plane amid the mass evacuation from the country that started since its collapse to the Taliban on August 14