Congressman: California couple finally escape Afghanistan

SAN DIEGO (AP) — A California Republican congressman said Wednesday that he has helped a San Diego area couple who are both in their 80s and are U.S. citizens get out of Afghanistan after they were repeatedly blocked by the Taliban.

Rep. Darrell Issa said in a statement that the couple was on their way home to San Diego County. His office said their names are not being released at the request of the family because their Afghan relatives remain in the country and may be at risk.

“This is a cause for celebration and the result of almost countless hours of work under very difficult conditions,” Issa said in a statement.

Issa’s office said the couple tried repeatedly over multiple weeks to get through Taliban checkpoints but were harassed and intimidated, blocking their efforts to board a plane home. The couple’s granddaughter, Zuhal, contacted the Issa district office, to request help. Issa’s office said it was also withholding her last name for the same reason it is not identifying her grandparents.

Issa did not give details on how the couple left the country.

Issa has helped dozens of others, including six families who live in the San Diego suburb of El Cajon who had trouble boarding their flights last month amid the chaotic evacuation of Afghans, Americans and others as the Taliban seized power and the last American troops left the country.

One family who has students enrolled in the Cajon Valley Union School District remains stuck in Afghanistan, desperate to leave. El Cajon, east of San Diego, has a large refugee population.

The families had traveled to Afghanistan in the spring and earlier this summer to visit their relatives. Many are U.S. permanent residents who came to the United States on a special visa for Afghans who worked for the U.S. government during the war. Some are U.S. citizens, including many of their children.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Congress this week that about 100 U.S. citizens remain in the country and want to leave. Rescue groups and lawmakers believe the number could be higher.

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