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A year after the fall of Kabul, advocates call for permanent solutions for Afghan women soldiers

Today marks the first anniversary of when Afghanistan's capital Kabul fell to Taliban control, and U.S. troops withdrew from the country. Tens of thousands of Afghans were evacuated from their country as a result, particularly those whose work with the U.S. government and military made them possible targets of the Taliban. 

But the process was chaotic. Images from evacuation flights showed people hanging from airplanes as they attempted to take off. Many people under threat struggled to make it out of Afghanistan.

Bill Richardson, a U.S. Marine veteran and former police detective who lives in Phoenix, says that was the case for a tactical platoon of Afghan women who, despite working alongside the U.S. military, were not on among the first priority for evacuation. This time last year, he and his daughter, a former member of the U.S. Army's Cultural Support Team, which worked with the platoon, were trying to get about a few dozen platoon members out.

"In fact, the FTPs (Female Tactical Platoon) weren't even on anybody's radar to be evacuated," he said. "They sacrificed a lot to join the army as a woman in Afghanistan, they’re a Hazara, which is a persecuted minority in Afghanistan. And they not only went into the army, they pursued a path of special forces." 

The women arrived in Phoenix and around the country last year. Richardson says many of them want to serve in the U.S. military or in other government jobs.  

But that's not possible now. Like many other Afghans, the platoon members came to the U.S. on humanitarian parole — a temporary immigration status granted on an emergency basis. Holders of the status can apply for asylum or in some cases, Special Immigrant Visas, but not U.S. citizenship.

Richardson and other advocates are backing a bill before Congress that could change that. The Afghan Adjustment Act was introduced this month with bipartisan support in the Senate and House. 

Alisa Reznick is a senior field correspondent covering stories across southern Arizona and the borderlands for the Tucson bureau of KJZZ's Fronteras Desk.