Fox News Reporter Opens Up About 'God Awful Situation' for Friends Still in Afghanistan
"I feel absolutely sick to my stomach because I feel like I can't do anything," says Aishah Hasnie of loved ones' pleas for aid
As the final U.S. troops were leaving Afghanistan on Monday at the end of the 20-year war, the heart of Aishah Hasnie, a Fox News congressional correspondent born in Pakistan, was breaking.
"It's just a God awful situation," Hasnie, 36, tells PEOPLE of what remains in Afghanistan, where some of her friends and family friends live, now that the national government and army have collapsed.
Hasnie has been told by friends that their relatives are squirreled away in their homes, terrified to leave for fear of reprisal by the Taliban, who took power last month.
She hears wrenching stories, including of a a relative of one of her friends, a man who worked for the Afghan government who she was told was shot in the street on his way to work.
A brother of another friend, a former translator for the U.S. military, was at the Kabul airport during last week's suicide bombing — believed to be the work of Islamic State fighters opposed to the U.S. and the Taliban — which killed almost 200 people, including 13 American service members.
Instead of choosing to enter the airport at the Abbey Gate, where the blast occurred, the friend's brother and his family were saved because they chose another gate.
"It's turmoil," Hasnie says she has been told. "It's absolute turmoil."
The friends who wanted to leave have been calling her, she says, in hopes of getting a contact or an email or a phone number, asking, "Can you connect me with this person? Do you know anyone at the State Department, do you know anyone Pentagon?"
"I feel absolutely sick to my stomach because I feel like I can't do anything," she says.
There is Hasnie's childhood pal from from Indiana — where Hasnie grew up after her family emigrated to the United States when she was 6 — who has a friend with family that includes a general of the Afghan military with four daughters.
"On Sunday night she kept texting me every few hours. Have you heard any updates? Have you heard any updates? The daughters are of the age to be married and [the general] is very concerned that the Taliban will take his daughters and, of course, are looking for him."
With all flights now ceased and the final member of the U.S. military gone just before the clock struck midnight on Tuesday, the only options for those still there, Hasnie says, are alternate routes — "whether that's by car or whether we wait and see what happens, what the Taliban allows."
While estimates vary about the tens of thousands of Afghans who remain in the country seeking refuge, the White House says less than 200 Americans are there and want out, and most of them are dual citizens.
President Joe Biden said Tuesday he was "committed" to getting them after ending the war.
Hasnie knows many faces behind these numbers: In the last few days, one brother of her translator friend and his family — the ones who chose an alternate gate at the airport before last week's bombing -—were airlifted to Qatar. The translator's other brother remains sequestered at home.
"People ran out, got a bunch of food, whatever they needed, especially phone cards, to hunker down for as long as they needed to," Hasnie says, adding, "I can't even try to imagine what it's like to be so afraid even [to] just step outside your own home to take in the fresh air."
Hasnie has had her own brush with the Taliban. During the end of a 2016 visit to Pakistan she made with her parents, a bomb that insurgents set went off at a park next her grandmother's house, she says.
"My cousin went out, saw the damage, saw the bodies and was sending me messages on WhatsApp, telling me just everything he was seeing. It was horrifying," she says.
"This is unfortunately a reality in that region," she says, "and so people know, people understand that these aren't just threats. They take the Taliban and the other groups, other proxy groups, very, very seriously."
She especially fears for Afghan women and girls. Her friends don't believe for a second that the Taliban will preserve the rights gained while they were not in power after the U.S. invasion.
"That's propaganda. That's never going to happen," she says of her friends' opinion of the militant group's promises to support women and girls and to be more moderate than the draconian rule of the late '90s.
"They're going to follow their version of Sharia [Islamic] law. That's what they're going to do."
As a Muslim woman, Hasnie feels this deeply. "I get to work in a free press society, covering the highest levels of government. I get to wear skirts and dresses. I get to show my legs. I get to show my hair and still be taken seriously," she says.
"And I think about the women in Afghanistan," Hasnie says. "I think everyone in this country wants that for them. It makes me emotional."
As it does her Afghan friends, for all who remain.
"I think that they really thought that the Afghan military and the government would endure," Hasnie tells PEOPLE. "There is so much sadness."
If you would like to support those in need during the upheaval in Afghanistan, consider:
* Donating to UNICEF to aid Afghans in the country or
* Donating to the International Refugee Assistance Project to help those fleeing.