“We felt in danger”: Afghan evacuees in U.S. describe fleeing the Taliban

Surrounded by miles of farmland and cornfields, Fort McCoy is where life in America begins for nearly 13,000 Afghan refugees. On Thursday, a CBS News crew was allowed inside of the Wisconsin base, which houses the largest Afghan evacuee population in the U.S.

It’s a chance for a life of freedom after desperately escaping the brutal rule of the Taliban.

“Before the current Taliban, I had a good life in Afghanistan,” Farzana Mohammadi told CBS News.

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A look inside of Fort McCoy in Wisconsin where thousands of Afghan refugees are temporarily housed.

The 24-year-old is ready for her new future. As a former member of the Afghan women’s Paralympic wheelchair basketball team, she believes if she stayed in Afghanistan, life as she knew it would have been over.

“I can’t go to basketball, outside of home, because Taliban not let women go outside,” she said.

Many families have arrived at the base — which is one of eight U.S. bases helping to resettle more than 60,000 Afghan evacuees — with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

After reports of there not being enough food or clothing for the evacuees when they first arrived, base officials say there is now ample access to donated clothing, English classes and health care — including 29,000 COVID-19 vaccine shots donated over the past five days. They also have 1,500 soldiers providing security.

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Afghan refugees housed at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin.

Earlier this month, two evacuees were charged with assault and sexual abuse.

“When the Taliban came and arrived in central part of our country, we felt in danger — unsafe,” Sultana Amani said.

The Amani family fled Kabul with their five children. Now, 24-year-old Najibullah teaches a boxing class for men and women on the base. Their father, Mohammad Amani, hopes for a better future.

At this point, there’s not a clear timeline on when families will be able to leave for their permanent homes — but they are expected to resettle across the U.S.