It has been a heartbreaking couple of weeks for Mustafa Kamal.

The 22-year-old general manager at the Helmand Restaurant, an Afghan restaurant in Cambridge, was born in Afghanistan and came to the United States when he was about a year and a half old. A dining room full of set tables sat still as he helped to get the establishment ready to open for dinner on Sunday.

Kamal still has plenty of family back in Afghanistan. But trying to reach them during one of the most tumultuous periods in recent history in the country as the Taliban sweeps back into power following a withdrawal of U.S. forces has become a struggle.

“We got one phone call off yesterday and that was about it,” Kamal said. “We tried about, like, 20 times. And the phone calls do not go through. ... It’s just a tough situation to deal with. Can’t really do much from here but just watch, see what happens.”

It’s one version of a recurring story that has been shared by many in the Greater Boston area who have a connection to Afghanistan and are watching with a sense of trepidation as the country backslides into the hands of Taliban control.

Razia Jan, an Afghan native who founded Razia’s Ray of Hope Foundation, a Wellesley-based group that helps provide access to education for young women and girls in Afghanistan, tried to stay optimistic when she spoke to GBH News on Sunday.

“I think that under all this mess, there is going to be some kind of, I think, understanding and hope for the women of Afghanistan,” she said. “That’s what I hope, and I think it is so necessary for us to take, under all circumstances to be positive. I think for hundreds of years there was cruelty for women, but they survived and they shined.”

But even while trying to stay positive, Jan, who said her students and teachers in Afghanistan are safe at the moment, choked up at one point while talking about the situation in the country.

Beth Murphy, a filmmaker who made a film about Jan’s efforts in Afghanistan, said what’s happening is “just literally our worst nightmare.”

Still, she said, it’s a time for action.

“And there’s so many people that I and my colleagues who are here are trying to help, and there are so many people who are in real danger right now because of what’s happening,” Murphy said.

Though there is grave concern over what a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan will look like, it’s still unclear what exactly the future holds.

Thomas Barfield, a professor at Boston University who heads the American Institute of Afghanistan Studies, is trying to keep a level head about what happens next in the country.

“I don’t want to be like, ‘It’s the end of the world!,’ but it could go really horrible or better than we think,” he said. “And that’s one of the reasons the Afghans right now are so upset. Because literally in two weeks their world is turned upside down.”

Barfield, who has been working for weeks to get staffers for his institute out of the country, said there is noise that the Taliban have made some progress when it comes to human rights. But to what extent is yet to be seen.

“They did not receive international recognition in the 1990s, only three countries recognized them. They were pariahs, they don’t want to end up the North Korea of central Asia,” he said. “On the other hand, what I don’t know is, so, who controls Taliban policy, who speaks for them? That’s why I’m watching what’s happening in Kabul, where does it go? And you can see a positive sort of thing that maybe they’ve moderated in some ways, or you can go just the opposite and look [at] what ISIS did in Iraq and Syria.”

The Taliban takeover is a dramatic final act to the longest war in American history, and Barfield said it’s clear the Biden administration didn’t think through the consequences of the swift departure of U.S. forces.

“God, [Biden] wanted so badly to avoid a Vietnam analogy and he set it up perfectly,” he said. “Helicopters leaving embassies. ... People left behind. Everything the United States wanted to avoid, Biden, by trying to get out so fast, produced.”

In Cambridge, Kamal only had a few minutes to speak before the dinner rush, but he had a succinct explanation for what is happening in Afghanistan.

“Just a tough situation, helpless people that can’t defend for themselves,” he said. “They relied on the U.S. for the most part, U.S. kind of abandoned them like most other countries did. And now, it’s just them to fend for themselves against their own people for the most part.”

GBH News' Mary Blake contributed to this story.