Topics: New Taliban regime, U.S. intel and Afghanistan, media silenced, Afghan resettlement, CIA rescues, Milley testifies, Congressional testimony, and more.
Private Groups and Less Money. The funds originally to be used for charter aircraft have been diverted to food and lodging costs in Mazar-e-Sharif. The obstacles put up by the Taliban and U.S. security vetting procedures by the U.S. government along with other hurdles have resulted in many Afghan evacuees in a holding pattern in the northern city.
DoS and September’s Numbers – Not a Stunning Success Story. Ned Price, the Department of State spokesman, provided us with a count of the AMCITs and LPRs that DoS assisted in leaving Afghanistan for the month of September. Most of these people flew out of Kabul in September on Qatar Airways charter flights conducted and coordinated by Qatar for a host of countries including the United States. DoS was given the opportunity to manifest AMCITs and LPRs on these flights. With October now here it will be interesting to see how many of the (probably about 200) AMCITs and LPRs (exceeding 1 or 2 thousand) left stranded in Afghanistan that DoS will be able to get out. Hardly mentioned anymore are the at-risk Afghans with approved or pending Special Immigrant Visas waiting for their seat on a plane to take them to safety.
Congressional Hearings and Actions on Afghanistan
Kabul Evac Blame Game. The State Department says everyone was on board with the evacuation timeline. But the Pentagon says it pushed to move faster. General Scott Miller, commander of Resolute Support in Afghanistan recommended that State evacuate its embassy prior to the withdrawal of U.S. troops – State dismissed his recommendation. As Afghanistan began to fall Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin recommended an earlier departure for the embassy but was told it wasn’t necessary. “State Department, Pentagon trade blame over Afghanistan evac”, Politico, September 30, 2021.
Milley Under Attack. A favorite target of some Representatives and Senators during the Congressional hearings this past week has been General Mark Milley. Many Republicans and some Democrats put some very pointed questions to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The topics were about the withdrawal from Afghanistan and the NEO evacuation; but some questions went into other topics as well. “Benghazi multiplied by 10: Afghanistan becomes rallying cry for Republicans”, Politico, September 30, 2021.
Expert Testimony on Afghanistan. Two witnesses testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday, September 30, 2021 on Afghanistan. Mr. Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor of The Long War Journal. Dr. Vali Nasr is a Professor of Middle East Studies at Johns Hopkins University and is a former Senior Advisor to U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. You can read their prepared statements as well as view their testimony (video).
53,000 Refugees Need Housing. Resettlement agencies are scrambling to find affordable housing for thousands of Afghans who will soon be leaving military installations to begin their new life in America. Housing for refugees is difficult to find and normally it is a months-long process, but now there is a time constraint with thousands of Afghans hoping to leave military bases soon. As more and more Afghans finish their in-processing and medical appointments they will be ready to move into housing arrangements but the agencies providing that service will be hard-pressed to match up thousands of Afghans a week to the limited housing options available. “Refugee groups race to find housing for 53,000 Afghan evacuees”, CNN Politics, September 30, 2021.
CIA – Great Efforts to Rescue Its Afghan Allies. The books and movies about the ruthlessness with which the Central Intelligence Agency will discard agents, informants, and others that assist the organization in its mission are in stark contrast with the actions of the CIA during the month of August in Afghanistan. The intelligence agency performed, at least according to this article by David Ignatius, admirably in its frantic effort to rescue its Afghan allies. The varied units that the Central Intelligence Agency worked with during the two-decade long war found their way to the Kabul airport, assisted U.S. troops in clearing the airfield that was overrun by Afghans, secured the airport perimeter, and manned some of the entry gates to the airport. These Afghan allies also ventured into Kabul to rescue Americans, local embassy staff, foreign journalists, and NGO workers. The Afghan units known as “Counterterrorism Pursuit Teams” (CTPT), Units 01 and 02 of the National Directorate of Security (NDS), and others assisted in the evacuation in ways little known to the public. Much of the CIA evacuation activity centered on ‘Eagle Base’ not far from the airport. Those Afghan allies assisting at HKIA were then loaded onto planes and flown to safety. Many of those members of these elite Afghan units lack a U.S. Green Card or SIV documentation but are now in the ‘lily pads’ in Germany and the Middle East or on one of the eight military installations in the U.S. “Inside the CIA’s desperate effort to rescue its Afghan allies”, The Washington Post, September 30, 2021.
Dyncorp and Its SIVs – Could Probably Do Better. Drew Lawrence provides a detailed look at the obstacles Afghans face when applying for a Special Immigrant Visa or SIV. One of the biggest roadblocks are their former employers. Read “Left to the Devils: how red tape and paperwork errors betrayed American’s Afghan allies”, Task & Purpose, September 30, 2021.
Afghan Girls Soccer Team. Some girls from the Afghanistan national soccer team were granted asylum in Portugal. The group of 80 people – 26 youth team members as well as adults and other children were rescued by Operation Soccer Balls which was coordinated with the Taliban through and international coalition of U.S. military and intelligence officials, members of Congress, humanitarian groups, and others. “Afghan girls soccer team in Portugal gets a surprise visit”, AP News, September 30, 2021.
Operation Allies Welcome
Boat People and Afghan Evacuees. Captain Nguyenvy Dang’s grandfather served as a colonel in the South Vietnamese Army. With the fall of Saigon in 1975 he was imprisoned in a ‘re-education camp’ for 13 years. Now CPT Dang is assisting a new generation of people fleeing a country under harsh government rule – the Afghan evacuees. Read how he is assisting at the Operation Allies Welcome facility at Fort Bliss’ Dona Ana Complex in New Mexico. “From refugee to American soldier: Company commander shares paralllel journey to Afghan evacuees“, DVIDS, September 29, 2021.
Decision for Afghans on US Miltitary Bases – Stay or Go? Many hundreds of evacuees are leaving the temporary stay on the eight military bases prior to being fully processed. Some were American citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents. Some were Afghans with relatives in the U.S. that can care for them. However, officials are concerned that many evacuees are leaving before being fully processed – a situation that negates many of the benefits that they could receive. “Afghans are leaving U.S. military bases before resettlement”, Reuters, October 1, 2021.
$6.3 Billion for Afghan Resettlement. The U.S. Congress passed a continuing budget resolution that provides funding for Afghan evacuee resettlement. There were some provisions of the aid to the Afghan evacuees that Republicans opposed – those who received humanitarian parole status.
The Taliban, New Regime, and Terrorist Threats
U.S. Intel and Afghanistan. Now that the Taliban regime is back in power terrorist groups now have greater freedom to operate. To monitor this threat the intel community will need to re-posture its intelligence assets in the region. The robust over-the-horizon capability that President Biden continuously boasts about is not so robust when considering that Afghanistan is a land-locked country and the U.S. now longer has bases in Afghanistan nor in any adjacent country. The U.S. will need to use diplomacy and economic incentives to gain basing rights in the region that will enable intelligence collection. That means either Pakistan or the Central Asian states. Considering Pakistan has been part of the problem for the past two decades it seems unlikely that a Pakistan base will be in the U.S. future. That means going north into are area that Russia considers ‘home turf’ – enter the era of ‘strategic competition’. “Adapting Intelligence to the New Afghanistan”, by Thomas Spahr, War on the Rocks, September 30, 2021.
TB Silencing the Media. Journalists have been arbitrarily detained and beaten in Afghanistan under the new Taliban regime. In a late September meeting the Taliban met with journalists and distributed media regulations whose provisions were so broad and vague as to prohibit virtually any critical reporting about the Taliban. Journalists cannot broadcast reports that “are contrary to Islam” or “insult national figures.” “Afghanistan: Taliban Severely Restrict Media”, Human Rights Watch, October 1, 2021.
Photo: A Marine holds a baby while a family in-processes at Hamid Karzai International Airport. Photo by Staff Sgt. Victor Mancilla, August 28, 2021, USMC.