Afghan Report -Thu, Oct 7, 2021

COVID Test Fort Pickett

Topics: USAID in Afghanistan, rescued Christians, Kabul flights, humanitarian aid, border crossings, Moscow talks, Afghan passports, war on drugs, Afghan city in Wisconsin, CT to state building – mission creep in Afghanistan, and the secret HKIA gate.

The Secret HKIA Gate. Nicknamed ‘Glory Gate’, the back entrance to Hamid Karzai InternationalĀ Airport (HKIA-N) during the hectic days of the Kabul noncombatant evacuation operation (NEO) in August 2021 saw some discrete use to bring in embassy staff, VIPs, and other special category people. It was also referred to a ‘Liberty Gate’, ‘Qasaba Gate’, and ‘Northwest Gate’. It was initially used by the Central Intelligence Agency and JSOC and guarded by CIA-trained Afghan paramilitary unit. “A Secret CIA Gate at Kabul Airport Became an Escape Path for Afghans”, The Wall Street Journal, October 6, 2021. (subscription)

Afghanistan: Mission Creep – CT to State Building. Melissa Lee, a professor at Princeton University and book author, explains how the United States went from a counterterrorism mission in Afghanistan in 2001 to trying to reshape Afghan government and society. “How Not to Build a State”, Modern War Institute at West Point, October 5, 2021.

DoS Pushed for Visa Processing for Evacuees on Private Planes. Several House representatives have signed a letter sent to Secretary of State Antony Blinken requesting visas for Afghans who were evacuated on private charter planes. There are thousands of Afghans in Albania and the UAE in this situation. The representatives say that the State Department is putting an undue burden on those evacuated by private charter instead of by U.S. military flights.

A Small Afghan City in Wisconsin. Over 13,000 Afghan evacuees are now at an Army base and are adjusting to a new life in American. Their stay at this base will be several weeks long, for some it will be quite a few months. Many have been here a Fort McCoy for six weeks already – liviing in two-story barracks. The base is 60,000 acres and resembles a small town. Some are having difficulty in adjusting to American food. For instance, seafood is rare for a landlocked country, so a serving of shrimp is looked upon with suspicion. The Army is scrambling to provide food more familiar to the Afghans, to include more dates, fruits, vegetables, and humus. Fort McCoy is at 98% capacity and is the largest of the Afghan temporary camps in the U.S. The Afghans have been told to be prepared for a long winter in Wisconsin as it will take time to find homes for the more than 55,000 Afghan evacuees already in the U.S., with more to come from overseas. Read more in “Wisconsin military base turns into a small city as Afghans await resettlement”, NPR, October 6, 2021.

Afghan Lawyer and Harvard Grad – Now in Canada. Saeeq Shajjan’s story is one of many Afghans. After attending college in the United States he returned to Afghanistan to start a law practice. He and his family escaped to Qatar, and having worked for the Canadians, he was able to go to Canada. He now is starting from scratch to begin a new life. “Out of Afghanistan”, Harvard Law Today, October 5, 2021.

Taliban’s War on Drugs. The Taliban are taking to the streets to gather up drug addicts and force them into treatment facilities. Once medical facility for drug addicts is the former Camp Phoenix on the outskirts of Kabul. The aim of the government is to stamp out the scourge of narcotics addiction. Homeless men, drug addicts, are taken into custody and placed into treatment centers. Read more in “Now in power, Taliban set sights on Afghan drug underworld”, AP News, October 7, 2021.

Afghan Passports. The Ministry of Interior is giving priority to patients, government employees, businessmen, and others in the issue of passports. There is a huge backlog of passport applications.

Moscow Talks. Russia plans to invite representatives of the Taliban to international talks on Afghanistan to take place in October. “Moscow invites Taliban to Afghanistan talks on Oct. 20”, Reuters, October 7, 2021.

Border Crossings. Pakistan is increasing the requirements to needed to cross the border into their country. There are reports that a biometric system and new online visa system will be introduced at five border locations. The Torkham and Spin Boldac are periodically closed, and then reopened. Some Afghans are finding their way across the Iranian border – and many of them are apprehended and returned by bus to Afghanistan.

Humanitarian Aid Needed. Afghanistan’s economy is in a tailspin. Money, food, and jobs are scarce. Many of the Afghan elite who worked for Americans and other countries over the past 20 years are on the run, hiding from the Taliban. A severe drought in some parts of Afghanistan has brought more hunger. The international community has frozen funds causing a huge cashflow problem for the Taliban government. Sultan Barakat, the Director of the Centre for Confict and Humanitarina Studies at the Doha Institute, says that humanistarian assistance can provide the common ground for engagement between Kabul and the West and save Afghan lives. Read his thoughts in “The West can help Afghans without recognising the Taliban now”, Aljazeera, October 7, 2021.

HA (continued). See also “UN calls on donors to scale up life-saving response to crisis in Afghanistan”, Khaama Press, October 7, 2021 and “U.N. agency to pay salaries of Afghan health-care workers to help stave off humanitarian crisis”, The Washington Post, October 6, 2021.

Kabul Flight. Another plane has departed the nation’s capital headed to Qatar with more than 300 passengers. It included journalists, Afghanistan’s Cricket team, and foreign nationals from a number of countries. Read more in “Qatar evacuates 300 Afghan, foreign nationals from Kabul”, Pajhwok, October 7, 2021.

Rescued Christians. It is estimated that there are over 12,000 Christians in Afghanistan – and their lives are in danger. There are organizations that are assisting this very small minority group – they have had successes and failures. While they are not in the news at the moment their story will certainly be told in time. “Why stories of rescued Afghan Christians cannot be told”, Catholic News Agency, October 6, 2021.

DoD, DoS, and USAID in Afghanistan. One of the factors that entered into rebuilding Afghanistan was logistical and transportation assets, funding, and access to risky areas. The military had those attributes while the DoS and USAID . . . not so much. But then DoS and USAID had the expertise. The head of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), John Sopko, said as much and more during a Congressional hearing on Wednesday. “U.S. leaned too much on DoD to rebuild Afghanistan, inspector general says”, Military Times, October 6, 2021.


Photo: Afghan individuals prepare to be tested for COVID-19 after arriving to the U.S. during Operation Allies Welcome at Fort Pickett, Virginia, Oct. 6, 2021. This group of Afghan guests flew into Philadelphia International Airport and were transported by bus to Fort Pickett to begin their process of becoming U.S. citizens. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Eric Ramirez)