Some Afghans were forced to flee their country after it fell to the Taliban in summer 2013. Their journey to the United States has been stalled and may have ended at a cluster of tents and temporary housing built on an American base.
More than 78,000 Afghans have arrived to the U.S. since August for resettlement. However, it is uncertain what the future holds for those flagged for extra security vetting and diverted into Camp Bondsteel in the small country of Kosovo. The U.S. will not force the Afghans to return to Afghanistan. They could be subject to reprisals.
Their frustration is growing. According to photos provided to The Associated Press, some Afghans protested at the base that has been kept secret. They held up signs with messages like "we want justice" and other messages.
"They just keep repeating it, that is why it takes time and patience," one Afghan, Muhammad Arif Sarwari said in a text message sent from the base.
They offer a glimpse into an aspect of the evacuation of Afghans and their resettlement. However, the U.S. authorities and the government in Kosovo have not been able to speak about the Bondsteel residents.
Because some people have not been granted visas to the U.S., they are often traveling with their families, the base is home to a mixture of children and adults. Sarwari, an ex-highly placed intelligence official in Afghanistan, stated that there are 45 people at the base. This is about 20 visa cases. The flight to the U.S. with 27 refugees left Wednesday.
Although the Biden administration will not provide specifics, it acknowledges that some of those evacuees didn't make it through the "multi-layered, rigorous screening, and vetting process", and will not be allowed to enter the U.S.
"While most Afghan evacuees have been cleared through the process, the few individuals who were denied are an example of the system functioning exactly as it should," stated Sean Savett, a spokesperson for the National Security Council.
According to the government in Kosovo, 600 Afghans have passed through Bondsteel. The initial authorization for the base to be used for evacuees was for one year. However, it was recently extended to August 2023.
The U.S. supported Kosovo's 2008 independence from Serbia. They have not provided any information about the Afghans living at Bondsteel. This is due to the privacy concerns of the refugees. Albin Kurti, Prime Minister of Kosovo, stated in a statement that his government was proud to provide temporary shelter for them.
According to a U.S. military publication, Afghans are being housed in a Bondsteel section called Camp Liya. This is named after a child from Afghanistan who was handed to the U.S. Marines through a fence at Hamid Karzai International Airport during evacuation.
The need for an international facility was due to the chaotic nature and evacuation. Thousands of Afghans were able to board military transport planes after the collapse of the Afghan government. They had to pass minimal screening before arriving at any of the many overseas transit points.