SAN ANTONIO — The Taliban’s swift takeover of Afghanistan following withdrawal of U.S. Armed Forces, has caught the world’s attention, including that of San Antonio educator Haroon Monis.
“The terrorists are back. I thought that was our objective, not to let them have free reign of that country,” Monis said.
The U.S. military’s exit from Afghanistan comes after two decades of bloodshed, including the killing of terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden, and training of 300,000 Afghan soldiers.
The nation’s crumbling government has left thousands of civilians fearing for their lives; many of whom didn’t grow up in a world governed by the Taliban.
Monis, who teaches English at a local middle school, expressed what is happening in Afghanistan is all too familiar.
Monis authored a book entitled “A Refugee’s Story,” which details his journey escaping war-torn Afghanistan and arriving in San Antonio.
He stressed the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, served as the catalyst for him to write the book.
Monis has kept up regularly with the recent developments in Afghanistan, recognizing the parallels to his early childhood.
“It’s heartbreaking and it’s also Déjà vu. As a kid, I lived through all that,” Monis said.
Monis recalled when the Russians invaded Afghanistan in the late 1970s and eventually withdrew in 1989.
In the midst of the chaos, Monis’ family sought freedom and began their trek to the U.S. with a pitstop in neighboring Pakistan.
Monis was just 12-years-old when he made it to the Alamo City.
“I was granted asylum to this country. I’m lucky, I’m alive, I’m here,” Monis said.
That same desperation experienced by Monis, can now be seen by thousands of Afghans hanging onto hope.
“You’ve seen the images of people clinging to the plane. They are literally fighting for their lives,” Monis said.
The U.S. government is working on transporting up to 22,000 Afghan refugees by Aug. 31.
Fort Bliss is among the military bases slated to accommodate the asylum seekers.
Meanwhile, refugee resettlement organizations are working around the clock as they prepare to assist Afghans who’ve applied for Special Immigrant Visas.
Many of the individuals worked with U.S. service personnel in the capacity of drivers and translators.
“This is why now there is such a rush to be able to get these families and individuals out. There’s a tremendous backlog,” said Marisol Girela, associate vice president of social programs at RAICES (Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services).
Since 2017, RAICES has resettled nearly 600 people from Afghanistan through its Reception and Replacement program.
President Joe Biden, embroiled in controversy with the decision to pull out, emphasized his commitment to the humanitarian mission of assisting in-peril Afghans in addition to U.S. embassy staff and their families.
“These are individuals that helped our military troops and as Military City USA, we owe them a responsibility to get them to safety,” Girela said.
Monis hopes for peace in his home country, although it’s uncertain at this time what the future holds as the Taliban establishes its presence in Afghanistan’s capital city of Kabul.
“I feel sorry for the people of Afghanistan. I wish I could do more. I wish we as Americans had done more,” Monis said.