There isn’t a single country in the world that recognizes the Taliban as a legitimate government. And neither do many Afghans. One year after the U.S. pulled out of Afghanistan, reporter Najib Aminy checks back in with a teacher from Kabul named Aysha, who fled to the U.K. She was one of the 120,000 people airlifted out of the country as the Taliban took control. Like many other Afghan refugees, she’s frustrated that the Taliban’s leadership has resulted in having to leave her home country behind.
While the Biden administration has claimed to welcome refugees from both Afghanistan and Ukraine, the process for people fleeing the two countries has been unequal. To gain temporary entry to the United States, more than 66,000 Afghans applied through a process called humanitarian parole. But the hurdles for Afghans are huge, including monthslong wait times, piles of paperwork and a steep cost ($575 per person). In contrast, after Russia invaded Ukraine, the United States created a special humanitarian parole process for Ukrainians caught in the conflict – it can be filed online and has no application fee. Government records reveal that only 123 Afghan humanitarian parole applicants have been approved, compared with 68,000 Ukrainian applicants.
Guest host Ike Sriskandarajah and Aminy then head to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, where $7 billion in assets belonging to Afghanistan has sat frozen since the Taliban took control of the country last year. Aminy talks with Shah Mehrabi, an economist who sits on the governing board of the Afghan central bank, who says that without access to those assets, the country’s economy is headed toward collapse. The Biden administration is in a complicated position as it considers whether to release the money – and how to do it without aiding the Taliban.
Obaidullah Baheer is a lecturer at the American University of Afghanistan who is trying to bring the Taliban and its critics together to chart a future for the country. For Baheer, Afghan politics is personal – his grandfather served as prime minister of the country and is accused of committing war crimes that killed thousands of civilians. With that weight of personal history, Baheer is organizing Afghans to figure out how to resolve the conflicts at the heart of the country today.