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An American who recently escaped Afghanistan appeared on CNN on Tuesday evening to describe her harrowing experience being evacuated from Kabul after the city fell to the Taliban.
Salma Kazemi, a 24-year-old University of Colorado graduate, traveled with her mother to visit family earlier this month, planning to come back in September. However, their plans were thrown into chaos by the lightening Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.
Appearing on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360,” Tuesday evening, Kazemi said the women were “nervous” about the Taliban when they landed, but it was not until about two weeks later that they realized the terrorist group had taken over several cities. Shortly afterward, the Taliban entered Kabul.
At that point, Kazemi said she and her mother stayed inside and attempted to get plane tickets out of the country, which were “twice the price.”
American describes escaping Kabul after Taliban takeover Salma Kazemi, an American who was in Kabul, Afghanistan, visiting family, describes the chaos she experienced as she escaped the besieged city. https://t.co/uXzaeS3qkZ #Video #USRC pic.twitter.com/UuIE6VUNkt
— Top U.S. & World News🗽 (@USRealityCheck) August 25, 2021
“We literally felt hopeless, and that’s when my family was freaking out as well and wondering that we probably would never be able to come back home,” Kazemi told CNN anchor Anderson Cooper.
“The one thing I want is for them to get somewhere safe but there is nowhere to go,” Ali Kazemi, her brother, told local news outlet KDRO before the women were successfully evacuated.
Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) offered to try to help get the women home. Lamborn represents the Colorado Springs area, where Kazemi’s family lives.
“It is a humanitarian and strategic and security crisis that is unfolding. It’s very regrettable. And I think we can do better as a nation,” Lamborn told KDRO.
Kazemi and her mother were able to get spots on a chartered flight and made their way to Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul after the curfew ended. When she got out of the car, Kazemi noticed a laser dot on her person, and a gun was fired to scare them off, she said.
“Someone had told us that that gate has not opened for three days,” she said. When they arrived at another gate, “there was Taliban lined up against the airport.”
Meanwhile, crowds of desperate people fleeing the Taliban surged around them.
“It was so scary. We were scared that they might try to open the car doors and take our stuff,” Kazemi said.
At one point, the Taliban stopped the pair but let them through once they saw her mother’s American passport.
“We had to fight just as much. Some people had no paperwork. Some people were from Germany, Turkey. We were all in the same mess,” Kazemi said of the crowds.
“There were kids just crying. Sorry, I’m getting emotional,” she added as her voice faltered. “They were fainting and there were people all bloody and having strokes, and it was probably something I would never expect to see. … There was barbed wire, and my mom’s clothes tore. Her hand was bleeding.”
They pushed and pulled in the crowd for about four hours until Kazemi said she got the attention of a British soldier, who told her to get closer to the gate. Eventually, she and her mother were able to board their flight and returned to the U.S.
“I still feel sadness,” she said. “I feel like there are so many people still trapped there and it’s dangerous and I can’t do anything about it.”
“I feel like no one’s doing anything about it. We’re doing as much as we can but I feel like there could be done more.”
President Joe Biden said Tuesday that the U.S. will complete its evacuations from Afghanistan by the end of the month after the Taliban warned of “consequences” if the U.S. remains in the country past that deadline. The White House has offered no guarantee that all Americans will be evacuated.
“The completion by August 31st depends upon the Taliban continuing to cooperate and allow access to the airport for those who want transport,” Biden said in remarks at the White House on Tuesday.
Thousands of U.S. citizens are believed to still be trapped in the country.