Bay Area's 'Little Kabul' feels heartbreak over turmoil in Afghanistan

The news unfolding from Afghanistan's capital city spread across Centerville on Sunday a district of Fremont known unofficially as "Little Kabul." 

Fremont and other parts of the East Bay are home to one of the largest populations of Afghan immigrants and Afghan Americans in the United States, and families in the now fear for loved ones living in Kabul, where the Taliban took control that day.

Fatema Sheer, an Afghan-American resident of Newark, spent Sunday worried sick for her aunt and cousins living in Kabul. She had heard that they'd lost water and electricity, and were hunkered down in their homes.

"I can only hope and pray for my country that, you know, we don't want something that happened 30, 20 years ago to happen again, but it's already happening," Sheer said.

The Taliban's takeover was precisely what she'd feared when President Biden first announced the plan to withdraw troops from Afghanistan.

"For the Afghan people both inside Afghanistan and outside, it's a moment of reckoning, recognizing that you know, a lot of these gains are largely lost," Morwari Zafar, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University who teaches a course on Afghanistan's political history, said.

Zafar and her family came to the East Bay from Kabul 25 years ago. She believes a series of missteps from president Biden, including announcing a pullout of troops from Afghanistan during the Taliban's spring offensive, emboldened the regime to take control.

"How and why at the 11th hour we are trying so desperately to grasp at straws, and pull in flights, and get people out, and approve visas, I think that's something that we really have to assess what could have been done better," Zafar said. adding that the United States should offer damage control to Afghans.

For Aisha Wahab, Hayward's mayor pro tempore, that means holding the Taliban and surrounding nations accountable through sanctions, not necessarily with a military presence.

"The influences of the surrounding countries, [in] Asia, India China Pakistan, Russia Iran, does effect the United States long term, and that is the big concern I have," Wahab said.

Wahab is the first Afghan American to be elected to public office in the United States. She knows Afghans want peace and is holding out hope it can still be achieved.

"We have to maintain hope that there is a brighter future for Afghanistan," Wahab said. "Because if we don't have hope, we don't have anything."