Gibson Dunn | Pro Bono Newsletter

The Humanitarian Crisis in Afghanistan:

Update & Overview of Gibson Dunn’s Recent Efforts

September 2022

We recently marked the one-year anniversary of the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan. Many of you will remember the frantic days between August 15, when the Taliban seized Kabul, and August 31, the date U.S. forces set for their withdrawal. The United States ultimately evacuated approximately 125,000 people from Afghanistan before completing its withdrawal. Unfortunately, many more were unable to evacuate and have been in hiding, on the run, and living in constant fear of Taliban reprisals ever since.

As these events unfolded, a firmwide team of Gibson Dunn attorneys immediately jumped into action. Especially in those early days, we had attorneys and staff across the Firm working day and night to help individuals and families trying to escape Afghanistan and find safety in the United States or elsewhere. Our initial efforts focused on a handful of families with direct connections to the Firm, such as interpreters who had worked with Gibson Dunn attorneys who previously served in the U.S. military. However, what began as a very personal mission to help several families at risk of Taliban violence quickly evolved into something much bigger.

Over the last year, our attorneys have worked alongside our nonprofit and corporate partners to help Afghans seeking to flee Afghanistan, as well as those who already had traveled to the UK, the United States, and elsewhere. Since August 2021, the firmwide Afghanistan Task Force has grown to well over 200 attorneys who collectively have devoted more than 11,000 pro bono hours to the mission—work valued at approximately $10 million. If you’d like to learn more about the Firm’s work on behalf of hundreds of Afghan clients, please watch a short video found here.

Humanitarian Parole Applications


The Firm’s initial wave of pro bono work largely focused on filing humanitarian parole applications to help families at risk of Taliban reprisals enter the United States on a temporary basis. This included interpreters who worked with U.S. military personnel, educators and activists committed to the empowerment of women and girls, Afghan public defenders and law enforcement personnel, and many others who fought to protect democracy and the rule of law in Afghanistan. For example, we partnered with the International Legal Foundation (“ILF”), an international NGO that hires, trains, and deploys local legal aid attorneys in post-conflict areas, to help file humanitarian parole applications for several of their Afghan lawyers and their families. We sincerely hope these individuals will reach safety while the ILF’s mission continues around the world.

“My colleagues went from feeling like they had no one in their corner to being represented by one of the most prestigious law firms in the world. This alone means a huge amount, but what is even more important is that they now have the best possible shot at starting a new life in America.”
—Ben Polk, Global Policy Director, International Legal Foundation

Currently, the Firm is working with dozens of individuals affiliated with an Afghan sports team for women. The members of the team, most of whom remain in hiding in Afghanistan, have been targets of the Taliban—both because the Taliban prohibits women and girls from participating in sports and because female athletes are viewed as advocates for women. Last year, one young member of the team was beheaded by the Taliban. Other members of the team have received death threats. Dozens of Gibson Dunn attorneys from across the Firm are now helping the team file humanitarian parole applications, in the hopes that they and their families will be able to travel to the United States and apply for asylum.

“As the grandchild of holocaust survivors, the plight of the Afghan refugees resonated with me in a very personal way, and I reached out to see how I could get involved. Through the Firm’s Afghan pro bono efforts, I met many selfless individuals and NGOs working together to do whatever they could to assist. One of these organizations asked if Gibson Dunn could represent the team. It is heartbreaking (but also inspiring) to work with these incredible women who have worked so hard against all odds to build successful careers and lives, which have been cruelly ripped away from them so suddenly.”
—Michal Baum, Associate (New York)

Afghan Asylum Applications

Visa Application

As an increasing number of Afghan refugees have resettled in communities across the United States, our focus has broadened to help Afghan refugees obtain permanent immigration status. We have taken on dozens of Special Immigrant Visa (“SIV”) and asylum applications on behalf of Afghan refugees, including journalists and others associated with the New York Times, diplomats, soldiers who fought alongside U.S. forces, and advocates for women’s empowerment.

Just last month, teams of Gibson Dunn attorneys filed asylum applications on behalf of women who had served in Afghanistan’s Female Tactical Platoon, an all-women security forces unit that fought alongside U.S. and Afghan special forces. These courageous women played a critical role in the fight against the Taliban, ISIS, and other extremist forces. They regularly joined high-stakes missions to gather information from women who would not have been able to speak with other soldiers due to cultural norms or language barriers. Of course, the women’s involvement in this unit would have put them at the top of the Taliban’s kill list, so they were forced to keep their involvement secret from everyone, including friends and family. Unfortunately, the Taliban seized government offices with records of the Female Tactical Platoon program, putting the women at extreme risk of Taliban reprisals. With help from U.S. soldiers who served alongside them, the women were able to evacuate to the United States. The Firm is honored to assist them and their families in applying for asylum. To learn more about the Female Tactical Platoon, please click here.

“Working on the Female Tactical Platoon project has been one of my favorite things I’ve done in my career at Gibson Dunn. It has been so awesome getting to know my client and her sweet family on a personal level, and rewarding to know we are helping some of the most deserving women out there.”
—Christine Ranney, Associate (Denver)

Gibson Dunn Co-Founds Welcome Legal Alliance

Welcome.US Looking forward, we know there is still so much work left to do. The Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan has been marked by a humanitarian, refugee, and economic crisis of staggering scope. The United Nations estimates that 24 million people in Afghanistan—more than half of the country’s total population—require urgent humanitarian assistance. And the Afghan evacuees now resettling across the United States are at risk of slipping through the cracks of our highly complex immigration system. Without pro bono representation, they could lose their status in the United States and be forced to return to Afghanistan.

To help address these needs, the Firm is a proud partner of Welcome.US, a new national initiative to inspire, mobilize, and empower Americans from all corners of the country to welcome and support those seeking refuge here. Welcome.US began as a project to welcome our new Afghan neighbors, and it has expanded to help those fleeing the war in Ukraine while also building a durable capacity to welcome other newcomers. Gibson Dunn is an active member of the Welcome.US CEO Council, a cohort of leaders from across business sectors committed to supporting Welcome.US initiatives and using private sector resources to support those seeking refuge here in the United States.

Recognizing that obtaining permanent immigration status is one of the critical needs of refugees arriving in the United States, Welcome.US has focused on creating innovative solutions to ensure Afghan evacuees have access to pro bono legal services. To that end, the Firm—alongside the Afghan American Foundation and Human Rights First—is a co-founder of Welcome.US’s Welcome Legal Alliance. The Welcome Legal Alliance mobilizes the nation’s lawyers to provide critical pro bono advice, including help applying for asylum.

In connection with World Refugee Day this summer, for example, the Welcome Legal Alliance hosted a series of limited-scope pro bono clinics helping connect more than 100 Afghan refugees to attorneys from law firms and in-house legal teams who can help them address their immigration needs. As part of this effort, our attorneys helped Afghan evacuees complete their SIV and asylum applications, and assisted our nonprofit partners with intake screenings. We’re so grateful to the attorneys who represented the Firm in these clinics, and we encourage all of you to participate in future clinics in the coming months and to continue supporting the Welcome Legal Alliance’s efforts to provide legal representation to Afghan evacuees.

If you are interested in helping, we invite you to email and to learn more and sign up for upcoming pro bono opportunities. The Welcome Legal Alliance is planning an impressive lineup of events for the remainder of the year, and volunteers will be empowered to take on pro bono projects ranging from one-hour immigration screenings to full-scope asylum representation with built-in training, mentorship, and other resources.

Thank you so much for everything you’ve done over the last year to help the Afghan refugee community. We’re excited to see what we can accomplish together in the next year!


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