After a failed evacuation attempt during the double suicide bombing last week, an Afghan mother and her five children remain stuck inside Afghanistan with little direction from the State Department on when or how they will leave.
“It’s an open-air prison,” an American relative of the mother told Fox News. “There’s no safe way to leave the country.”
In a pre-arranged meeting scheduled for Aug. 26 and coordinated between the American relative, U.S. lawmakers, and the State Department, the Afghan mother and her children were to meet a security official at 5 p.m. outside Abbey Gate so they could be safely escorted into the airport.
The chaos that ensued following the attack forced her to flee the scene and seek shelter with her children.
The mother’s relative, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of Taliban reprisal, explained to Fox News that they have been unable to re-establish contact with U.S. officials for further guidance.
The State Department on Wednesday said that it will be tailoring evacuation plans for Americans, Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) holders, and Legal Permanent Residents – also known as green card holders – but it did not respond to Fox News’ questions about what it is doing to help other at-risk Afghans.
“Kabul has gotten increasingly more dangerous,” the relative explained. “So she went back to her house, about ten hours north of Kabul.
“It’s a little bit more remote, but they’re still doing door-to-door checks,” she added, referring to the Taliban.
The American relative said her cousin has described a scene of terror unfolding throughout Afghanistan with Afghans now attempting to flee to surrounding nations like Tajikistan in the north and Pakistan to the east.
“She said she spoke to people who had actually gone to the Tajikistan border and they were conducting searches of people in the vehicles,” the relative said, referring to the Taliban. “If you had younger boys they were recruiting them and taking them and not allowing them to cross.”
The American relative described a similarly chaotic scene for those attempting to flee into Pakistan, where daughters have allegedly been seized by members of the insurgent group.
Fox News could not verify whether the Taliban have in fact begun separating families at border crossings.
Ahmed Mohammed, legal director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), told Fox News that “fear is driving” rumors across Afghanistan.
“It’s a frustrating process, to say the least,” Mohammed said. “There just doesn’t seem to be a lot of direction either from congressional offices or from the State Department.”
The situation for the Afghan mother has been made more precarious by the fact that she and her children do not qualify for the SIV program because she did not have direct involvement with the U.S. or coalition forces.
But they are known in her village and by members of the Taliban to be related to family members who did work with the U.S. as translators throughout the 20-year long war, which creates danger for them.
Her oldest daughter – who was able to evacuate – was known to be married to an SIV holder. “That puts them at a huge risk,” the American relative explained. Adding the Taliban views the family as “in line with westerners.”
“You’re letting your daughter marry a westerner, you guys are in line with the Westerners, you guys see eye-to-eye with them,” she said in explanation of the Taliban’s perspective. “You are evil.”
State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Thursday that the double suicide attack near the Kabul airport changed the “operational environment” and the ability to evacuate more at-risk Afghans by the Aug. 31 deadline.
“We will continue to process individuals,” Price said. “The president has spoken of our commitment to bring … individuals who wish to leave Afghanistan to safety.”
But the relatives of the Afghan family remain frustrated that they have not yet received updated guidance from the State Department or from their state lawmakers on an evacuation plan.
Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., and Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., reportedly helped to coordinate between the Afghan family and the State Department in the leadup to the attack but did not respond to Fox News questions.
The State Department also did not return Fox News questions on when and how the family can expect to be contacted for evacuation.
“It’s like they’re untouchable,” the relative told Fox News. “I get they’re super busy. But you know, literally, every minute counts.”