Yama Daqiq waited patiently at Dulles airport in Virginia on Thursday (August 26), as his wife and four children made their way back home from an ill-timed trip to Afghanistan.
Daqiq was one of a number of Afghans and Americans of Afghan origin waiting for loved ones coming to the U.S. in the waning days of an evacuation that has seen over 100,000 people airlifted by the U.S. military and its allies following the Taliban takeover.
His family’s return came on a day when the already chaotic situation turned tragic at Kabul airport, after two apparent suicide bombers struck at the gates outside, killing at least 13 people.
Daqiq says his wife went to visit her relatives in Afghanistan after not seeing them in four years, a trip that coincided with the Taliban’s rapid sweep across the country towards the capital Kabul, after the withdrawal of U.S. forces.
“They were expecting to come back on August 16,” Daqiq said. “But everything happened very fast and Kabul collapsed on 15th,’ he said.
His family tried numerous times to get to the airport, which is surrounded by thousands of Afghans trying to get through Taliban checkpoints, before they finally succeeded on August 24th, he said.
After a long wait, Daqiq and his family had a joyful reunion after they arrived on a flight carrying other evacuees.
The White House said that roughly13,400 people were airlifted from Afghanistan on Wednesday (August 25), raising the total number of those evacuated by the U.S. and coalition partners since Aug. 14 to about 95,700, the White House said on Thursday.
The Kabul explosions took place amid the crowds outside the airport who have been massing in hope of escaping in the airlift which the United States says will end by Tuesday.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blasts, but U.S. officials pointed the finger at Islamic State’s Afghan affiliate, ISIS-Khorosan which has emerged as enemies of both the West and of the Taliban.
Washington and its allies had been urging civilians to stay away from the airport on Thursday, citing the threat of an Islamic State suicide attack.
Most of those evacuated by Western countries have been Afghans who helped them. But officials acknowledge that many thousands more will be left behind following President Joe Biden’s order to pull out all troops by Aug 31.
Biden ordered all troops out of Afghanistan by the end of the month to comply with a withdrawal agreement with the Taliban negotiated by his predecessor Donald Trump. He spurned calls this week from European allies for more time.
(Production: Greg Savoy; Ashraf Fahim)