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A young family that fled Afghanistan in October and has been stuck in the United Arab Emirates Humanitarian City refugee compound for almost four months is on its way to the U.S., a week after National Review highlighted the family's case.
The family — a father, mother, twin toddlers, and a nine-month-old baby with a life-threatening heart defect — boarded a plane in the UAE on Thursday and is flying to California after a brief stop in Chicago, according to sources who are part of the civilian effort to rescue Americans and American allies from Afghanistan. National Review has agreed not to release the family's name out of concern for relatives who still live in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.
The members of the family are not American citizens, but they had visas approved last summer that would have allowed them to travel to the U.S., where the baby could undergo heart surgery. They dropped their passports off at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul to be stamped, or "foiled," so they could fly into the U.S. But before they could retrieve their documents, the embassy was abandoned, and their documents were destroyed.
"This action was taken to prevent these sensitive documents from being captured by third parties," the U.S. Department of State emailed the father on October 21. "We are working diligently to arrange relocation options for individuals whose passports were destroyed."
The baby underwent a stopgap heart procedure in Abu Dhabi after the family flew to Humanitarian City on October 17, but she will likely need additional care, sources said.
National Review reached out to the State Department on January 14 inquiring about the family's status. Four days later, the State Department emailed the family.
"We have been able to reissue your visas at the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi," the email read. "We will now work on booking your flights to America."
Thousands of Afghanistan evacuees remain in the Humanitarian City compound after the Biden administration's chaotic and bungled withdrawal from Afghanistan last summer. It's unclear when, or if, many of them will be allowed to leave.
The New York Times reported on Tuesday that hundreds of CIA-backed Afghan antiterrorism squad members remain stuck at the desert compound, frustrated that thousands of other Afghans who were lucky enough to board American military planes have already made it to the U.S. Afghans who boarded non-American evacuation flights tended to end up in facilities where they can stay indefinitely, like the UAE compound, the Times reported.
National Review has reported on the cases of two American citizens who remain at the Humanitarian City compound because their spouses — and in one man's case, his five-year-old son — are still waiting for government approval to travel to the U.S. Both of the men, Bilal Ahmad and a man whom National Review is identifying only by his nickname, Ace, said they lost their jobs after traveling to Afghanistan to rescue their families in August, and then getting stuck in the refugee compound for months. Both men said they refuse to leave their families behind.
Ace's wife's case was transferred from Kabul to the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi the weekend after National Review emailed the State Department about the family. Ace said his wife, who is pregnant, is scheduled to have her embassy interview next week.
Gary Maziarz, a former U.S. Marines staff sergeant who has been working as Ace’s handler, said he’s cautiously optimistic that Ace and his wife could be approved to come to the U.S. in a matter of days after the interview. However, it’s still unclear when the next government flight with Afghanistan evacuees will depart from UAE.
“This is a big step, the fact that first they transferred her application to Abu Dhabi, and then the fact that she got an appointment,” Maziarz said.
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