Topics: New DoS head of relocation effort for Afghans, HKIA rescue stories, Congress and DoS are failing, Afghan border closures, humanitarian aid, rule of law, and Central Asian states.
New Head of Afghan Relocation Effort. Elizabeth Jones, a career foreign affairs officer with the Department of State, will head up the task force responsible for overseeing the departure and resettlement effort of Afghan evacuees. The scope of her responsibility starts from the AMCITs, LPRs, and Afghans at-risk currently in Afghanistan, to the ‘lily pads’ where they are gathered in Europe and the Middle East, and finally to the United States. In the past she has served as the ambassador to Kazakhstan and as deputy special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Read more in “Biden taps new Afghan relocation leader as U.S. weighs future with Taliban”, Politico, October 12, 2021.
Private Organizations and DoS Coordination Meetings. About 100 private volunteer groups, many of the Afghanistan veterans, are continuing the work that the Department of State seems to have some difficulty finishing. There still are a number of American citizens left in Afghanistan who want to get out. Apparently, DoS still can’t give us an accurate number, always defaulting to ‘about 100’. However, there many private organizations that have AMCITs in their databases and the true number is likely around 200-300. In addition, there are a thousand or more Lawful Permanent Residents (green card holders). And, of course, there are the at-risk Afghans with either approved or pending Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) who have been abandoned. The State Department and Department of Defense have established a working relationship with these private ‘Afghan Evac’ organizations. Regular meetings take place and some coordination is being done. Certainly, not to the extent desired by the private organizations or to the degree required to be a truly effective arrangement. But there is hope that the folks working on the 7th floor at Foggy Bottom will eventually realize the true value of the Afghan evac organizations that are just one phone call away from helping them fix this huge problem. (Defense One, October 13, 2021).
SIV for Afghan Fulbright Scholars Proposed. A congressman from California has introduced legislation that would give Afghan Fulbright scholars special immigrant visas. (VOA, Oct 13, 2021).
Colorado Accepting 1K Refugees. Between 1,000 and 2,000 Afghan evacuees are expected to resettle in Denver and Colorado Springs by the end of the year. A few evacuees have already arrived and resettlement agencies are gearing up for a big influx beginning in mid-October. The newly established Colorado Afghan Evacuee Support Fund hopes to be a help to those soon-to-arrive Afghan families. (Colorado Public Radio, Sep 24, 2021).
Story on USAF Personnel Recovery Task Force Deployed to HKIA. In mid-July Air Force crews and staff were briefed on their upcoming mission to deploy to Kabul, Afghanistan to provide combat search and rescue capabilties during the non-combatant evacuation operation that began in August 2021. “Air Force rescue personnel support NEO weeks before the fall of Kabul”, US Air Force, by Lt. Col. Kristen Duncan, October 12, 2021.
Spain Evacuates 160 Afghans. The Spanish defense ministry has completed the evacuation of more at-risk people who has initially been left behind following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. Over 83 people had been flown to an air base near Madrid on Monday, October 11, 2021. The evacuees were brought to Spain via Pakistan. “Spain evacuates 160 more Afghans via Pakistan”, ABC News, October 13, 2021.
Congress and DoS – Failing Effort. “Unlike the carefully scripted talking points coming from televised briefings by the administration during the frenzied evacuation, we thought the congressional hearings would be a chance to hear from State Department and Pentagon officials directly, without the filter of the public relations statements coming from behind a podium.” Disappointment soon set in. Joan Barker writes how “Congress took last hope for those left behind in Afghanistan”, Orlando Sentinel, October 12, 2021.
Border Closures Affect Medical Patients. Many Afghans go to Pakistan to seek medical treatment because of the rudimentary medical care offered in Afghanistan. The healthcare system in Afghanistan is on the brink of collapse. Some medical staff have already left the country while others don’t go to work because of a lack of wages. A shortage of specialized doctors in Afghanistan means patients will seek lifesaving care in Pakistan, but crossing the border is problematic. The two main border crossings – Torkham and Chaman – have opened and closed numerous times over the past two months. “Critically Ill Afghans Suffer as Taliban Tighten Pakistan Border”, The Guardian, October 13, 2021.
Situation in Afghanistan
Don’t Shave Your Beard! Young men in Afghanistan are now finding out that facial hair is the new fashion – and that having your beard trimmed too much can lead to severe beatings. (Gandara, Oct 6, 2021).
Hasina Safi Interview – Women in Afghanistan. The former Acting Minister for Women was interviewed about the current situation for women under the new Taliban regime. She outlines the most urgent needs of women and girls in Afghanistan, describes the long history of the women’s rights movement in Afghanistan, and outlines how the international community can help preserve the gains and rights of women. “Afghan Women Will Not Go Backwards”, UN Women, October 12, 2021.
Rule of Law Score. The latest statistics of the World Justice Project has ranked Afghanistan at 134 out of 139 countries. Five countries have a lower score than Afghanistan – including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cambodia, and Venezuela. (Khaama Press, Oct 13, 2021).
CSTO Military Drills on Afghan Border. The Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization will be holding joint military drills near the Afghan border in Tajikistan in late October. The CSTO includes Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Armenia, and Belarus. The Russians have expressed concern about the situation in Afghanistan and the implications for Central Asia. (Gandara, Oct 13, 2021).
G20 Pledge and Humanitarian Aid. The G20 special summit virtually hosted by Italy took place earlier this week. The leaders agreed to work together to avoid a humanitarian disaster in Afghanistan. It was voted to accelerate aid to Afghanistan as the country is facing a humanitarian crisis with the approach of winter. The leaders emphasized that humanitarian workers will need access permission by the Taliban regime. At the summit the European Union pledged a package of $1 billion for the people of Afghanistan. The presidents of Russia and China skipped the call, being represented by other senior government leaders. “G20 pledges help for Afghan humanitarian crisis at special summit”, Reuters, October 13, 2021.
Kunduz Receives Humanitarian Aid from Iran. On Wednesday, October 13, an Iranian plane landed in northern Kunduz province with food, medicine, and medical materials. (Khaama Press, Oct 13, 2021).
UN and Humanitarian Aid. The crisis in Afghanistan is worsening and funding for emergency aid is urgently needed to help 20 million people in that country according to the UNHCR. (UN, Oct 11, 2021).
Photo: Marines wave goodbye to Afghans as they depart Quantico and continue along the resettlement process. (U.S. Army North, Twitter, Oct 14, 2021)