National Security

Afghan girls soccer team granted asylum in Portugal

People's feet kick around a soccer ball
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The girls on Afghanistan’s national soccer team have arrived safely in Portugal where they have been granted asylum after weeks of waiting to flee the country following the Taliban takeover.

The girls found out early Sunday that they would be leaving Afghanistan for a destination unknown to them at the time, the Associated Press reported.

After the U.S. withdrew from Afghanistan, the girls were moved between various safe houses and were fearful given their roles as female athletes and advocates for girls, the AP said.

The team’s captain, Farkhunda Muhtaj, helped with rescue efforts from her home in Canada. 

“They left their homes and left everything behind,” Muhtaj told the AP. 

The mission entitled Operation Soccer Balls was coordinated with the Taliban through an international coalition of U.S. leaders, allies and officials. 

CIA and Air Force veteran Nic McKinley, who worked with the coalition, told the AP that the rescue had to happen quickly within “a window of about three hours.”

The mission was successful despite obstacles like the group’s size of approximately 80 people, including team members and their families, in addition to disheartening news of other failed rescue efforts, the AP reported.

“The world came together to help these girls and their families,” former congressional Chief of Staff Robert McCreary said to the AP. “These girls are truly a symbol of light for the world and humanity.”

Tags Afghanistan Asylum Portugal Taliban troop withdrawal

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