CONCORD (KPIX) -- After nearly 20 years, the United States officially left Afghanistan on Tuesday. But left in its wake is a nation in turmoil and thousands of refugees looking for a new home in America, and for some, the Bay Area.
Over the weekend, at the Noor Islamic Cultural Center in Concord, volunteers met to begin planning relief efforts for Afghans refugees. That will include food, housing, interpreters, social services and help for families with kids from infants to teens.
"They left the country with nothing but what they were wearing. So, we plan to provide everything for them," said Sadique Popal, the Islamic Center's board president.
On Tuesday afternoon, local Afghans met with Congressman Mark DeSaulnier, who says, despite the cost of living in California, the state is ready to do its part.
"We have relocated more people from around the world who have come here as refugees than any other state," said DeSaulnier. "And we have a good infrastructure that way. Is it perfect? No, but we're getting better all the time."
But the Afghans also want the federal government to bring international pressure on the Taliban to end their brutal repression of the Afghan people, especially its women, who had made so much progress over the years.
"They had the education that they didn't have access to before. They had the prestige that they didn't have access to before," said Popal. "That's why—we took them so far, it's so hurting right now! It's so sad to just leave them there."
"It just kind of feels like everything that was progressed over the last 30 years, it just kind of fell to crumbles," said Henah Akbar, a young Afghan-American woman living in Clayton. "People are questioning, well, why was the US there for 20 years if the Taliban are still there? So, it kind of almost feels like a failure."
But, unlike when the Russians left, few Afghans wanted to see the Americans go, according to Fazel Adiani.
"They pulled lots of problems back," he said. "They couldn't bring a peace, they couldn't bring a solution and they couldn't decide what to do. But they left the country, left big turmoil in the country."
With the US leaving the way it did, there is little military influence left, but DeSaulnier said the Taliban needs to pay attention or risk being isolated by the world community. But will the Taliban even care? Many Afghans think they are less interested in building a nation then simply tearing one down.
Organizers say the Bay Area relief effort will involve every aspect of life for Afghan refugees. For more information about what's needed, click on noorislamicandculturalcommunitycenter.com.
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