Picture Credit: Shekib Rahmani/Associated Press
On August 9, 2021, I was in an Uber in San Francisco and struck up a fascinating conversation with my driver, a relatively new immigrant to the United States with perfect English. He proudly explained how he had picked up the English language very quickly while attending his final year of high school in California.
His father had been working for the U.S. Army in Afghanistan until about five years ago when it was no longer safe for his family to remain in their country. They were at risk of retribution by the Taliban. So he and his immediate family members were able to seek asylum in the U.S.. He described what it was like to grow up in Afghanistan in the presence of both Taliban and American troops, and talked about how his country has always been the center of a battle because it was full of extremely valuable natural resources. The driver explained how the Taliban were being backed by different countries around the world in a battle for wealth and power. One of his speculations was that Pakistan, Iran and China were all funding the Taliban.
The Taliban are a religious military group that many countries including the U.S. believe to be terrorists. They have been battling for control over Afghanistan for many decades. Before 9/11, the Taliban ruled the majority of the country, and then after the infamous 9/11 attack, the U.S. attacked the Taliban and drove them out for promoting terrorism, murdering Afghani civilians and abusing of human rights, particularly women’s rights, in the name of religion. The U.S. troops remained in the country in a bloody civil war for the next 20 years to keep the Taliban at bay.
According to my Uber driver, living in Afghanistan, he never knew who was a Taliban. They live in hiding amongst Afghani, in the same apartments, schools and public places, and therefore, you have to be cautious about what you say or do. But despite the lack of peace and safety in Afghanistan, he longed to return to his home where most of his friends and the rest of his family still reside. He was just trying to earn some money and finish his dental training to be able to return to Afghanistan and become a dental assistant.
Exactly 6 days after that conversation, the Taliban took over Afghanistan and overthrew the American-backed Afghani government. I was in shock. President Biden had announced a full withdrawal by September 11, 2021 but the whole world was shocked that the Taliban were able to take over so quickly. The last week has been terrifying for the people of Afghanistan and we have seen photos and reports of civilians desperately seeking to flee the country as quickly as possible. I instantly thought of my Uber driver. When would he ever be able to return home safely now?