An Afghan Journey From Kabul to the Bay Area

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California Today

A erstwhile interpreter for the U.S. subject moved from Kabul to Martinez past week. He longs for the household that helium near behind.

Thomas Fuller

Aug. 19, 2021, 8:50 a.m. ET


Ahmed Azizi, a erstwhile  interpreter for U.S. Special Forces successful  Afghanistan, and his wife, Tamanna Rasteen, moved from Afghanistan to the United States past  week, settling successful  Martinez.
Credit...Mike Kai Chen for The New York Times

MARTINEZ — Ahmed Azizi, a erstwhile interpreter for U.S. Special Forces successful Afghanistan, is surviving betwixt 2 worlds.

Last week helium was successful Kabul embracing his parents and an entourage of 2 twelve brothers, cousins and nephews who tearfully waved and wondered erstwhile they mightiness spot him again.

This week, Azizi finds himself successful a location a fewer blocks from a freeway that whisks him disconnected to downtown San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge, the places helium dreamed of erstwhile helium was surviving successful a subject outpost battling insurgents successful confederate Afghanistan.

Azizi is 1 of tens of thousands of Afghans who person resettled successful the United States successful the 2 decades since the American penetration of Afghanistan. They accidental they feel lucky to person near the turmoil of Afghanistan, but fearfulness for their relatives who stay there.

Azizi’s American communicative truthful far: He is simply a Muslim antheral sponsored by a Jewish enactment and surviving crossed the thoroughfare from an evangelical religion successful a California subdivision.

“Life is beautiful,” Azizi told me.

On Wednesday, erstwhile we arranged to conscionable astatine his house, Azizi said helium would substance maine his address. But helium didn’t cognize the sanction of his street, truthful helium sent maine the latitude and longitude arsenic if helium were inactive determination successful a distant Afghan outpost.

Azizi and his wife, Tamanna Rasteen, some 28, person spent the past fewer days wandering done the Bay Area wide-eyed.

Azizi said helium was impressed with the subject shown by California drivers. “In Kabul determination are immoderate postulation lights astatine intersections, but nary 1 follows them,” helium said. He noticed however radical support to themselves successful California; nary 1 asked him who helium was, wherever helium was from. “Everybody is engaged with their ain business,” helium said.

Rasteen said she was impressed by the buildings. They looked sturdy to her. In San Francisco, she was intrigued that immoderate radical wore jeans that sagged “halfway down their legs,” she said.


Credit...Mike Kai Chen for The New York Times

Behind the smiles, it was not hard to observe the heavy ambivalence they harbored astir leaving their families behind. Azizi became glassy eyed erstwhile helium recounted his father’s parting words past week: “Take attraction of yourself, instrumentality attraction of your wife. God bless you.”

Azizi said helium did not recognize — nary 1 realized, helium said — that arsenic helium was leaving the country, it was connected the precipice of authorities change. When his level took off, Afghanistan had a government. When helium arrived successful California connected Thursday, it was successful shambles. Three days later, arsenic helium was settling into his caller location successful Martinez, the Taliban — the force helium had helped combat for 3 years — had declared victory.

I asked Azizi whether helium had occupation separating his aged beingness from his caller beingness and however overmuch helium thought astir his 3 years serving with U.S. troops.

He recounted a shooting that seems similar a poignant connection connected the difficulties of the American warfare successful Afghanistan. In July 2019, Azizi traveled to an Afghan Army basal successful Uruzgan province, southwest of Kabul. He was interpreting for American troops erstwhile a barrage of bullets fatally wounded 2 American soldiers. An Afghan Army worker wrong the basal had targeted the Americans, according to an relationship by the Stars and Stripes newspaper, which identified the 2 slain U.S. soldiers arsenic Brandon Jay Kreischer, 20, and Michael Isaiah Nance, 24.

“I was caller to the job,” Azizi said. “It was a precise hard time.”

From the clip helium became a subject interpreter successful 2018, Azizi said helium felt similar helium was a marked man. The occupation came with changeless reminders of its dangers. One chap interpreter was killed successful battle. Another was tracked down and slain successful beforehand of his household portion connected leave. Two others were killed adjacent their homes, 1 decapitated with a knife.

“Every azygous infinitesimal and 2nd I was scared,” Azizi told me.

His formation past week to the United States landed successful Washington, D.C., and it was lone erstwhile helium arrived astatine his hotel, a Holiday Inn successful Virginia, that helium said helium yet felt safe.

Now successful California helium is embarking connected the adjacent chapter.

“We are starting from zero here,” helium said.

Jewish Family & Community Services East Bay, the enactment helping him, is paying his rent for now.

In a fewer weeks helium volition get his greenish card, allowing him to find employment.

His goal, helium says, is to enlist successful the U.S. military.

“This state gave maine this opportunity,” helium said. “This state gave maine a caller life.”

For more:

  • In California, wherever galore Afghans resettled aft the American invasion, those who worked with the United States fearfulness for relatives near behind. Read more.

  • On Wednesday, the Taliban faced the first challenges to their renewed regularisation and utilized unit to interruption up protests. Prominent figures vowed to proceed resistance.

  • Keep up with the latest from Afghanistan with the Times unrecorded briefing.

Thomas Fuller is the San Francisco bureau main for The New York Times.


Credit...Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press


  • Vaccine verification: California officials announced Wednesday that radical attending indoor gatherings of 1,000 radical oregon much volition person to amusement impervious of vaccination oregon a antagonistic coronavirus trial effect starting connected Sept. 20, KTLA reports.

  • Recall: A caller effort from the Times Opinion conception explores an important issue: “Why Deep Blue California Could Elect a Bright Red Governor.”

  • Baby bear: Firefighters are keeping an oculus connected an emaciated carnivore cub that whitethorn person mislaid its parent successful the Dixie fire. The babe carnivore has been spotted “peering done brushwood and leaping done plants covered successful occurrence retardant chemicals,” The Associated Press reports.

  • Blue Shield stepping down: The Los Angeles Times reports that the Blue Shield of California, which Gov. Gavin Newsom says was captious successful distributing vaccines aboriginal successful the pandemic, is taking a measurement back from its role.

Southern California

  • Imperial County: Tucked into the southeast country of the state, Imperial County has amazed galore with its vaccination rates, 3rd highest successful the state, CalMatters reports.

  • Sweet treats: The Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles and Orange County are releasing a caller cookie. Adventurefuls are a brownie-inspired dainty with caramel pick and oversea salt, reports The Orange County Register.

  • Real property costs: Southern California location prices acceptable a grounds successful July, with the six-county region’s median income terms reaching $681,750, The Los Angeles Times reports.

central California

Northern California


Credit...Heami Lee for The New York Times

Adapted by the Times edifice professional Tejal Rao, this chiles rellenos recipe primitively comes from Andrea Serrato, who sells an exquisite mentation of the crockery retired of her location successful East Los Angeles.


Credit...Brian Melley/Associated Press

Today’s California question extremity comes from David Olodort. He writes:

This hidden gem is caught betwixt 2 titans of nature: Mt. Whitney and Death Valley! The Alabama Hills (unfortunately christened aft a Confederate ship) is an unthinkable scenery of tumbling stone formations (à la Joshua Tree minus the yuccas). I urge exploring the rolling trails, feeling the coarse stone connected your hands, astatine sunset erstwhile the airy implicit the Sierras is breathtaking. It’s besides location to countless Western movies, which you tin larn astir successful municipality (Lone Pine is simply a beauteous community!)

Tell america astir your favourite places to sojourn successful California. Please see your sanction and wherever you live, truthful we tin stock your extremity successful the newsletter. Email your suggestions to

After a agelong hiatus due to the fact that of the pandemic, Los Angeles’s favourite car-free event, CicLAvia, has returned to the streets.

Pedestrians and cyclists took implicit a agelong of Avalon Boulevard successful Wilmington connected Sunday, but this time, determination was a caller attraction on the broadside of the road. Along the route, participants could not lone prime up h2o and drawback a wound astatine nutrient trucks, but besides person a escaped Covid-19 vaccination.

“We’re playing our portion arsenic we effort to guarantee that our metropolis tin determination to a amended place,” CicLAvia’s main strategist told KCRW.

Thanks for reading. I’ll beryllium backmost tomorrow. — Soumya

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Furry feet (4 letters).

Steven Moity, Briana Scalia and Miles McKinley contributed to California Today. You tin scope the squad astatine

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