WASHINGTON—Before her country and her life changed suddenly and radically in 2021, Manaz Akbari was the pioneering commander of the Afghan National Army’s Women’s Tactical Platoon. Release prisoners from prison.
Akbari, 37, and her soldiers did so at great personal risk. One woman was shot in the neck and fractured her skull. Another one of hers was killed shortly before the fall of Kabul. And after the Taliban took over the country, many members of the platoon were forced to flee to the United States.
Now Ms. Akbari and other members of the Women’s Tactical Platoon are embarking on another mission. It is to convince Congress that their service in Afghanistan has earned them the right to stay in America permanently.
“Our missions were aimed at large targets, such as Taliban commanders and Daesh leaders,” Akbari said in a recent interview at her apartment in Silver Spring, Maryland. Spoken using another name.
On Thursday, Akbari and other women’s groups from the Women’s Tactical Platoon met with parliamentarians in the parliament building to try to revive a stalled law to address them and other Afghans’ precarious immigration status. bottom. The soldiers are in the United States on a two-year humanitarian parole that expires in August. will be faced.
Thursday’s meeting ran the gamut from liberal to conservative legislators.
Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz, who has supported hard-line immigration policies, was impressed and empathized with the women he met.
“The brave Afghans risked their lives to keep American soldiers safe, and we owe them a responsibility,” Mr. Cruz said after the meeting.
That sentiment was echoed by Rep. Michael Waltz, a Florida Republican who had just endorsed former President Donald J. Trump’s re-election, but Afghanistan’s support of American forces during the decades-long war in Afghanistan. He was an advocate of helping refugees.
“You are all fellow soldiers,” Waltz, a former Green Beret, told the women at a conference hosted by Rep. Seth Moulton, a Massachusetts Democrat who served in the Marine Corps. Ingrained in every soldier is never leaving a fellow soldier behind, so we will continue to fight for those left behind.”
Minnesota Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar said she is leading the revision of the Afghanistan Adjustment Act, which died in the last Congress due to a lack of Republican support.
The bill would create a legal pathway to permanent residency for Afghans who worked as interpreters, drivers and repair workers at the risk of their lives to help Americans during the conflict in Afghanistan. About 82,000 Afghans fled to the United States After the fall of Kabul. Since then, most people have been living in a legal maze without long-stay permits.
The measure, which requires additional security checks, is modeled after legislation enacted after other humanitarian crises like the Vietnam War. Similar laws were enacted after the crises in Cuba, Nicaragua and Iraq.
It would also have paved the way for the permanent authorization of four specific groups: the Afghan National Army Special Operations Command, the Afghan Air Force, the Afghan Special Operations Wing, and the Afghan Women’s Tactical Team.
Klobuchar is working to update the bill in hopes of getting enough support for the right to pass it. She has spoken with former President George W. Bush several times about her support for his efforts, she said.
“Republican support is growing in the Senate,” Klobuchar said. “They can’t hang around for this long. These women are part of the tens of thousands of Afghans who have stood up for our country.”
But if efforts fall short, some supporters said Congress could consider a narrower bill that would help dozens of special forces women stay in the United States.
In a meeting with the women, Klobuchar’s senior adviser, Erin Chapman, said changes requested by Republican senators in the last Congress for “additional scrutiny” of Afghans by the Pentagon would go into the bill. Said it was already included.
Army Capt. Mary Collars, who led the cultural support team in Afghanistan and worked closely with the Afghan women, asked Ms. Chapman about the safety concerns of the platoon’s families.
“These women and their families are being targeted – their siblings and parents,” Kohlers said.
Rep. Greg Stanton, a Democratic Rep. from Arizona, was trying a different tactic when meetings with soldiers began Thursday.Mr. Stanton sent a letter Asked Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mallorcas to personally ensure that members of the Women’s Tactical Platoon have expeditiously adjudicated asylum applications through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service.
Only three of the nearly 45 female soldiers have been granted asylum so far, said Stanton, who expressed concern that female soldiers were treated differently based on their gender.
In a letter to Mayorkas, Stanton said, “I am concerned that this group of courageous women are being discriminated against by your department.” accepted asylum within a period of 180 days.”
In some ways, their efforts to get permanent residency for women are simply closing the loophole, their supporters say. Contractors such as translators and fixers who worked directly for the U.S. government are eligible for special immigrant visas, but soldiers paid directly by the Afghan government are not.
The story of how the Women’s Tactical Platoon was created and then evacuated from the country dates back more than a decade.
Nearly a decade into the war in Afghanistan, the U.S. military decided it needed a female force to help patrol the country’s rural areas.
In some areas of Afghanistan, it was considered culturally insensitive for a male soldier to speak to an Afghan woman, so Ms. Akbari and her troops were leading the conversation. They carried guns in case they encountered enemy combatants, but they also carried chocolates in case they encountered children.
They served primarily as cultural ambassadors, a task that put them in great danger. As one platoon member was conducting a search, the woman she was searching for pulled out a gun and opened fire, seriously injuring her.During a shootout between US forces and her ISIS, the skies It was lit up by something like fireworks, she recalled Akbari.
“These were very dangerous missions that put high-value targets at risk,” Kohlers said. “It is very personal to me when they talk about why they deserve our help. The bond between our two units is inseparable.”
Most of the women are Hazaras, an ethnic minority who faced violent persecution under Taliban rule. Living as a Hazara in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan doubles the risks posed by having a family of a woman who served in the U.S. military. said they were killed, tortured or threatened.
After the fall of Kabul, the Taliban seized the women’s documents and tracked down their families, but the information remained in Afghan government files.
A network of mostly female American soldiers rallied to help Afghan women evacuate quickly from the country.
Now, the women’s platoon members find themselves working at Chick-fil-A as baristas and grocery stores.
“Overnight, they were powerful, incredible soldiers with a direct purpose, and suddenly, in the eyes of the Taliban, you were hardly human,” Kollers said. .
They are scattered across the country, but many want to be on the battlefield again.
Akbari said on Thursday that she was ready to try again. If he gets a green card, he plans to enlist in the U.S. military.
Leave a Reply