On Sunday night, at a large round table with a white tablecloth covered with white butcher paper, sit Azim and Fatima, whom I’d been connected with via a local mosque. The couple met in Afghanistan in 2001, when Azim returned to visit his home country from the U.S. for the first time since 1982, when the country was convulsed by another guerrilla war with another occupying power — the Soviet Union. He escaped the country in the ‘80s with his family for a highly compelling reason: he and his dad ended up on a ”kill list.” “I literally dressed my dad as a woman and I had my mom and my two sisters and we ran to the back of the bus and stayed there and had them be covered completely,” Azim says with a face that conveys a continued sense of surprise that the plan worked. They went over the border to Pakistan and eventually made their way over to America. The couple now lives in Ellicott City, Md. with their three daughters. Azim is wearing a maroon button up and glasses; he’s professorial and does most of the talking. At first glance, Fatima is either quiet or unsure whether having a conversation about her home country with a reporter she’s never met is the way she wants to spend her Sunday evening. But in actuality, she has a terrible migraine from the lack of sleep over the last two weeks. And it makes sense why. Unlike her husband, Fatima still has family in Afghanistan, including her two teenage nieces. Like thousands of other girls back home, her nieces are in a state of constant worry and it’s only been getting worse. “I’m upset for my family,” she says, her voice shaking and hoarse from a lack of sleep. These are the lingering tolls of the end of America’s longest war. Physical traumas, for sure. But deep emotional ones, too. One of Fatima’s biggest fears is that the Taliban will take the two girls out of their home and force them to marry Taliban fighters. It’s something those on the ground have said has been happening since the Taliban took over, despite the group’s public professions of mercy. The Biden administration managed to evacuate more than 23,000 "at-risk" Afghans to the U.S. between Aug. 17 and 31, when the U.S. military mission ended, according to the State Department. For the Afghan American community, that represents a major influx. More than 80,000 foreign-born Afghans currently live in the United States, including more than 70,000 who have immigrated since 1980. Maryland has been one of their more popular destinations over the years. And, as recriminations fly over the war’s traumatic ending, more are coming. Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, says that since 2009, his group alone has resettled more than 10,000 Afghans and expects “thousands more in the weeks and months ahead.” The Helmand, with its obvious political connection to the country — Qayum Karzai ran for president of Afghanistan in 2013; Hamid Karzai remains there and has been part of the negotiations with the Taliban in recent months — and objectively delicious and authentic food, is a place of congregation for the Afghan community in the area. Having personally experienced the process of assimilation, the people here have a unique perspective on what tens of thousands of Afghans all over the world are now going through. They are, at once, devastated about the fate of their home country and terrified for the many who were left behind. Their sisters, brothers, parents. The Biden administration has touted its evacuation effort as “successful,” but few at The Hemland feel like there is anything worth gloating about, with so many of their family members stuck in limbo and no way of knowing what comes next. A tall, 21-year-old medical student at nearby Johns Hopkins University joins the table. Muzzammil, who I met through the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, was born to two Afghan refugees in Sacramento, Calif., one of the metro areas with the highest number of foreign-born Afghans in the country. He’s soft-spoken and when he sees the older couple, immediately puts his hand to his heart as he introduces himself to his elders. The three have never met but they greet each other like family. For the entire dinner, Muzzammil will only address Azim and Fatima as Kaka and Khala, which mean “uncle” and “aunt,” no matter how many times Azim and Fatima try to get him to use their names. “I would never say first names. My parents were going to be very upset if I said first names. It’s just out of respect,” he says, hand back on his heart. Azim speaks Farsi to the young man, who responds apologetically that while he understands the language, his family mostly speaks the other official language of Afghanistan, Pashto. But no worries, so does Azim. After the pleasantries, I ask them to rewind and reflect on the last 20 years of the American engagement of their country. What do they think of it, looking back? Azim is the first to speak up, leaning forward, “The intent . . . read the full article here.