SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – “I want Utahns to know what we as women went through in Afghanistan,” tells Roya Alizada in her interview with ABC4’s digital reporting team. As an Afghan special forces operative and now refugee resettled in Utah, Alizada and other women like her have gone through a lot. She contributed to this article under an alias for her protection and approved that images of her used obscure her identity sufficiently.

Alizada is a member of Afghanistan’s “Female Tactical Platoon” that was trained by U.S. special forces to fight alongside male Afghans in the defense of their country. According to her, they did everything “shoulder to shoulder with the men,” making her and her fellow female operatives extremely offensive to the Taliban. The Female Tactical Platoon reportedly participated in several hundred night raids with top US special operatives from the Green Berets, Navy SEALs, and Army Rangers. But it was their gender—not just their outstanding military record—that made them top targets for the Taliban when Kabul and Afghanistan fell. 

A recruiting poster featuring Roya for the Female Tactical Platoon reads: “Afghan special forces of Ktah Khas is the greatest military force in Afghanistan.  We want experienced volunteers to serve for our country. Your important service will help women and children and the overall mission.” (Credit: PenFed Foundation)

Alizada was a member of Afghan special forces for six years, in which she was trained in firearms, tactics, searches, investigations, and explosives. She served with the platoon in a variety of locations including Bagram and Mazar-i-Sharif. The Female Tactical Platoon specialized in night ops where they did what male soldiers could not in Afghanistan: interview women and children for ongoing military investigations. Alizada reported walking long distances on night ops to protect women and children in remote locations from the Taliban. 

Speaking about the fall of Kabul and Afghanistan, Alizada said she will “never forget that day.” 

She was in Kabul working, and on her way home from the bank after doing some administrative work.  Suddenly, Alizada’s driver’s car hit stopped traffic. Her driver said it would be better to walk to their destination than wait for the cars to clear, so Alizada began to walk through the traffic when the whole city erupted in chaos. She asked someone nearby what had happened, and they said that the Taliban had entered and taken Kabul. Alizada walked home through the chaos as all the markets and shops around her closed in fear of the incoming Taliban forces. 

Roya Alizada (Credit PenFed Foundation)

The withdrawal of U.S. forces and support meant that Alizada had to flee Afghanistan. Because she and her husband—also a member of Afghan special forces—had worked with the U.S. military and Afghan government, they were top targets for the Taliban. Alizada’s husband was unable to flee and was killed by the Taliban when she was two months pregnant with their son, who is with her in Utah. Alizada says that she didn’t only have to fear death at the Taliban’s hands, but likely torture and rape because of her work as a female special operative. 

As Afghanistan fell, Alizada was in contact with the Cultural Support Teams—her former military advisors—on how best to flee the country. She was sent a form to prepare for refuge in the US a month before the Afghan government collapsed. Four or five days after she was in Kabul as it fell, Alizada went to an address at sunset where she waited to be extracted. 

When asked what she left behind in Afghanistan, Alizada said she left “her whole family, her homeland, her everything.”   

About her new life in Utah, Alizada says that “everything is new here.”

She is still learning English as she adjusts to life in Utah with her son.  Alizada has been provided accommodations in the form of a home and necessities for six months. She says that the people and culture of Utah are very different from what she is used to in Afghanistan, and she misses her compatriots who remain there. She has found a community among other Afghan refugees in Utah, including some neighbors. 

While grateful for the assistance she has received in her resettlement to Utah, Alizada really wants “to take care of herself.” She hopes to work part-time as she improves her English, and then move to full-time work to provide for herself and her son. 

Alizada calls on Utahns and all Americans to help Afghanistan and Afghans in “every way they can,” but also to listen to her pain and the pain of all Afghan women. She fought and sacrificed so much not just for Afghanistan, but for U.S. interests and combatants as well.   

Utahns inspired by Alizada’s loyalty to her country and our own can contribute to her continued well-being and that of other Afghan female fighters at the PenFed Foundation website. By doing so, locals can welcome her to Utah and thank her for her service to our country and military.