Islamabad – With the U.S. military pullout and the evacuation of foreign nationals and vulnerable Afghans from Kabul ending last week, many Afghans who have worked for Japan but were left behind say they are filled with feelings of anger and hopelessness.
One such individual said he lives day to day in a heightened state of vigilance — even locking his bedroom door when he sleeps — for fear of his safety under the harsh rule of the Taliban, who have returned to power after 20 years.
The man, who requested anonymity, had been involved in Japan's aid activities for many years and is one of around 500 Afghans, including staffers of the Japanese Embassy and the Japan International Cooperation Agency and their families, whom the Japanese government had said it would evacuate.
But he was unable to leave the war-ravaged country as the Self-Defense Forces were ordered to withdraw on Aug. 31 after having evacuated just one Japanese and 14 Afghans at the request of the United States.
"I know it couldn't be helped but I'm upset," he said about having been left behind.
Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said on a television program Sunday that the government will send Tuskasa Uemura, the government's representative for the Middle East, to the Qatari capital of Doha later this week. The political office of the Taliban is located in Doha and Uemura is expected to work to make arrangements to rescue Afghan staff members of JICA and the Japanese Embassy in Kabul.
But until help arrives, those left behind will be forced to wait and hope.
On Aug. 26, the man involved in Japan's aid activities boarded a bus in Kabul and headed to Hamid Karzai International Airport. But an Islamic State group affiliate called ISIS-K fired rockets at the airport on the day and the SDF flight he was supposed to take was canceled.
Even though he was instructed to wait by the Japanese government, he never heard from Tokyo again before the SDF was ordered to pull out.
"If I couldn't go, they should've told me so," he said, adding that he now feels trapped.
Neighbors found out he was seeking to leave the country and he is afraid of what might happen if the Taliban discover his plan, he said.
Another local resident, who asked to remain anonymous, used to work at the JICA Afghanistan Office in Kabul, which administered Japan's official aid program in the country.
As he sought to flee, he requested a Japanese Embassy staffer to include him in the list of people to be evacuated by Japan. But the staffer only replied, "I have no authority to decide on this."
His father had been beaten by the Taliban during its former rule because he did not grow a beard, the local resident said.
"I was really disappointed when I realized that Japan wasn't willing to evacuate us," he said.
While the Taliban have struck a softer tone since the Aug. 15 takeover, there is no guarantee that their words will be accompanied by actions.
Meanwhile, the terrorist activities of Islamic State extremists are increasing, and there are concerns about a collision between them and the Taliban.
"This withdrawal is a rout of the U.S. military. Our country faces turmoil," a local journalist said.
The Japanese government has said it had submitted to the Taliban via the U.S. military a list of people seeking to evacuate on SDF airplanes, which was intended to enable them to pass through Taliban checkpoints on the way to the airport.
Now, however, the Afghans on that list are trembling in fear.
With anger in his voice, one of the local residents, who worked at the embassy, said, "I believe I'll be able to evacuate. The Japanese Embassy will do something."
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