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Student stuck in Afghanistan, a Utah teacher shares concern

Pakistan soldiers check documents of travelers crossing the border to Afghanistan through a crossing point in Chaman, Pakistan, Monday, Aug. 16, 2021. A special flight of Pakistan’s national airline PIA has arrived in Islamabad carrying 329 passengers from Kabul, and another carrying 170 people will arrive later today. A spokesman for the airline said Saturday that the airline will operate three flights tomorrow to transport Pakistanis and other nationalities looking to leave Kabul. (AP Photo/Jafar Khan)

KAYSVILLE, Utah —  The fall of Kabul has some Utahns worried about their friends, one of them a young student, currently stuck in Afghanistan.  One woman said a family she cares about likely has a dangerous journey ahead of them. And they’re not sure how the family will get home.

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Kaysville resident Kassy Stevens is a former teacher at Riverdale Elementary school. That’s where she taught a girl whose family is from Afghanistan.  The former student was traveling with her mother and three siblings when Taliban forces took Kabul.  Stevens doesn’t want to name her former student out of concern for her safety. She’s in constant communication with the studet.  Stevens said the girl sent out this message.

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“[She writes], ‘Please keep me in your thoughts.  The situation is out of hand and the Taliban has completely taken over,” according to Stevens.

Stevens said thousands of people are scrambling for any kind of protection from American soldiers.  However, her former student feels the US government has done extremely little to keep them safe.  All four of those children are American citizens, but Stevens says the only thing they’ve received from the US was an online repatriation form to fill out.

“I would say they feel abandoned because there are so many people they’re trying to get out, they just give them this form and say, ‘Fill out this form,” Stevens said.

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Apart from that, Stevens said the family has received no information from the US about getting to the Kabul airport safely or where people can go for protection.  She believes the US government is dealing with a backlog of online repatriation forms.

“People rapidly filled out the form and some filled it out multiple times.  So, the US is just going through those forms, right now, trying to figure out who can be rescued and who is a duplicate,” she said.

Even if the student stuck in Afghanistan received details about potential safe places, Stevens said they doubt they would be able to get there.  The Afghan family is traveling with their mother, and it’s dangerous for families to travel without their husbands, for now.

“Even if she gets the information to get out, how is she even going to get to the airport or the drop-off site?” Stevens asks.

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Veterans advocates say this withdrawal was handled very poorly and is a sad situation for all who’ve served there.  Former Utah Department of Veterans Affairs Executive Director Terry Schow said there are many people who helped American forces while they were in Afghanistan. And all of them are in danger while the Taliban is in control of the city.

Schow said, “The interpreters that helped the Americans… we absolutely need to get them out.”

Could the withdrawal have been handled differently?  Schow said doing it at a different time of the year would have made a huge difference.  He said winters in Afghanistan can be harsh. The mountain roads become impassible. Fighting frequently comes to a stop during those harsh winters.

“It’s best if you’re going to pull your troops out, to do it in the wintertime when the Taliban does not have the ability to mount an offensive, particularly in the mountainous areas,” he said.

Schow fears people in Afghanistan will suffer the same fate as the people who supported American troops in Vietnam.  He said many people were executed after being labeled as “collaborators” with the US after the fall of Saigon.