“It was not the Biden administration that got us out. It was
Digital Dunkirk, ex-military volunteers.”
Video – Woman Details Escape From Afghanistan. Najlla Habibyar, an Afghan living in Kabul and holder of a U.S. green card, worked closely with U.S. government agencies and was now a ripe target for the Taliban as the Afghan government fell to the insurgents. The lightning-quick offensive over the summer caught her by surprise and she was unable to return to the United States. Ms. Habibyar kept a video diary over several weeks as she and relatives moved from safe house to safe house on the run, attempted to get on one of the last military flights out of HKIA, and eventually are rescued by a private organization of former U.S. military members. Watch the video diaries in “My Toxic Afghan Love Story”, The New York Times, October 13, 2021.
Suspended Evacuation Flights. The U.S. State Department had notified American citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents (green card holders) of potential flights leaving Kabul – told them to pack a bag and “be ready to travel on short notice”. But then, DoS had to send out email notifications that the flights had been canceled. Prince Wafa, an AMCIT still in Kabul has been promised a flight out by the Department of State numerous times. However, he and his wife are still in Afghanistan. “Most evacuation flights from Afghanistan this week have been canceled”, CNN, October 13, 2021. According to a report by some news media evacuation flights organized by the Department of State will begin at some point this fall . . . or before the end of the year. It’s never too late to finally get it right, . . . unless the Taliban catch up to you before your flight leaves. (Reuters, Oct 14, 2021).
American Citizens Trapped in Afghanistan – Frustrated by DoS. Hundreds of American citizens, Lawful Permanent Residents, and at-risk Afghans share the same situation. The Department of State has promised seats on airplanes leaving Afghanistan, but seems to always fall through with no results. “Many Afghans pack their bags, hoping for the chance to leave”, The Washington Post, October 14, 2021.
A Call To Action – Things the Biden Admin Must Get Right. Two U.S. military veterans involved in the Afghan evac effort outline five recommendations that the Biden administration must put into effect immediately: (The Diplomat, Oct 14, 2021).
1. Expediate the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) application process, it is too slow, and unwieldy.
2. Be more transparent and provide useful information for the Afghans left behind.
3. Partner with nations bordering Afghanistan for refuge and safe passage.
4. Work with the non-profit volunteer Afghan evac organizations more effectively.
5. Provide new travel documents for the Afghans whose passports were destroyed by embassy staff during the August 2021 NEO.
Relatives of U.S. Service Members Still in Afghanistan. At least 48 service members in the Army and Marine Corps are trying to help 509 relatives evacuate Afghanistan. Many of the troops are former Afghan interpreters who later joined the U.S. miliary. They are receiving assistance from private volunteer organizations made up of former U.S. miltary veterans. “US Troops Have Hundreds of Relatives Still Stuck in Afghanistan, and Congress is Trying to Help”, Military.com, October 13, 2021.
A New Life in South Korea. For many years South Korean played an important role in the stabilization of the Afghan government. It provided humanitarian assistance and medical personnel in quite a few locations in Afghanistan. Now it is hosting Afghan refugees. “Afgahn refugee children in S. Korea welcome new life away from war, restrictions”, Reuters, October 13, 2021.
Israeli Humanitarian Group Rescues Afghans. IsraAID, an Israeli-based non-government organization (NGO, helped to evacuate 125 refugees from Afghanistan earlier in October. The Afghan nationals included judges, cyclists, journalists, human rights activists, and others. The is the second time in two months the NGO has assisted in the evacuation process. The refugees have been sent to either the UAE or Albania. They will eventually be resettled in France, Canada, or Switzerland. “Israeli Humanitarian Group Secretly Evacuated 125 From Afghanistan in October”, Newsweek, October 13, 2021.
Afghan Linguists in Europe. Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marine linguists are busy assisting in the evacuation of Afghans from Afghanistan at U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz in Germany. Some of the military service members are from the Defense Language Institute in California. They speak Pashtun, Dari, or Persian Farsi. Read more in “Afghan interpreters speak their way through relationship building”, DLIFLC, October 12, 2021.
Afghan Passports – Some Good News. The Afghan passport office is now issuing up to 4,000 passports per day. Thousands of Afghans have gone to the office to receive their travel documents. “30,000 Passports Issued Since Office Reopened”, Tolo News, October 13, 2021. See also “Pakistani airline suspends Afghanistan flghts due to Taliban ‘heavy-handedness'”, CNN World, October 14, 2021.
PIA Flights Suspended? The Taliban are looking at suspending flights by Pakistan International Airlines and Kam Air between Kabul and Islamabad. Apparently the reasoning is because of ticket price inflation. Airline tickets that used to cost $150 are now going for as much as $2,500. The Afghan Civil Aviation Authority warns PIA and Kam Am to drop ticket prices. Some media reports say that PIA has suspended its flights. PIA has stated that it has been experiencing heavy-handed interference by Taliban authorities including arbitrary rule changes and intimidation of staff. (Khaama Press and Reuters, Oct 14, 2021).
U.S. Military – Reviewing the Evacuation. Official who were in charge of the massive civilian evacuation from Afghanistan that began this summer are starting a deep dive into the lessons of that effort. The Joint Staff is working its After Action Review (AAR) while U.S. TRANSCOM is working on its own internal AAR. “Military reviewing lessons of Afghanistan evacuation as thousands more seek refuge”, Air Force Times, October 8, 2021.
Taliban, Security, and Governance
Taliban on Tajik Border. Thousands of Afghans camped out in Badakhshan province on the border of Tajikistan hope to leave the country and Taliban rule. Many had been at the border for weeks but now the Taliban has forced hundreds to flee the area. “Taliban Uses Force, Fear to Push Hundreds of Afghans From Tajik Border”, Radio Free Europe, October 8, 2021.
Podcast – Tajikistan-Taliban Border Tension. While other nations in the region are giving a reluctant nod to the new Taliban regime one neighboring country is holding back its enthusiasm. Both nations have move additional troops to the border area. Listen to a 45 minute long podcast on this topic in “Majlis Podcast: Tensions Along the Tajik-Afghan Border”, Radio Free Europe, October 10, 2021.
Taliban – ISIS-K Fight. When the Taliban took over Afghanistan it released thousands of prisoners held in prisons across the country. Among those with newly-found freedom were a few thousand ISIS-K members. They have now reunited with the terrorist group – bolstering its ranks. Missing from the security equation is the lack of attention given to ISIS-K by US SOF ground forces conductiong direct action raid and armed drones. So the Taliban have a serious security problem to deal with. One recent article analyzing the situation suggests that the U.S. could give the Taliban the support it needs to deal with the Islamic State threat. “The Taliban Can’t Take on the Islamic State Alone”, War on the Rocks, October 14, 2021.
Bomb Attack in Asadabad. At least one security force member as killed and 13 others injured by a roadside bomb blast in Kunar province on Thursday, October 14. The fatality was a Taliban district police chief.
Taliban a No-Show at Peace Talks. The leader of the Anti-Taliban resistance, Ahmad Masud, visited Dushanbe, Tajikistan for talks with Taliban representatives that were sponsored by Pakistan and Tajikistan. However, the Taliban were not present for the meeting. (Gandhara, Oct 13, 2021).
U.S. Meets with Taliban in Doha. On October 9 and 10, a U.S. interagency delegation traveled to Doha, Qatar to meet with senior Taliban representatives. The U.S. delegation focused on security and terrorism concerns and safe passage for U.S. citizens, other foreign nationals, and Afghan partners.
Economy and Development
Video – China’s Money. An eight-minute-long video explores the economic opportunities now open to China in Afghanistan. “Taliban: China is ready to invest billions in Afghanistan”, Voice of America, October 14, 2021.
Central States and Economic Trade with Afghanistan. The leaders of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan held a recent meeting to discuss the security, economic, and humanitarian situation in Afghanistan. Both leaders made clear at their October 5th meeting that they will continue to provide assistance to the people of Afghanistan. One topic was future of the huge TAPI pipeline that will transit Afghanistan. Other topics included railway expansion and power transmission lines. “For the Turkmen and Uzbek Leaders, a Meeting of Minds on Afghanistan”, Radio Free Europe, October 9, 2012.
Analysis and Think Tanks Stuff
A Failed Intervention. Rory Stewart comments on the delusions that western powers had on the attempt to rebuild Afghanistan. Too much was expected and too much energy and money expended – when a lighter footprint and more modest goals might have been successful. “The Last Days of Intervention”, Foreign Affairs, November / December 2021.
US – Pakistan Relations. Madiha Afzal reports on the changed relationship between the United States and Pakistan since the fall of the former government of Afghanistan and installation of the Taliban regime. The relationship between the two countries was defined by the U.S. need for ground lines of communication for its huge logistical needs in Afghanistan and the need for airspace corridors for its military flights. This dependence on Pakistan for twenty years was compounded by the direct support of Pakistan for the Taliban. With the U.S. no longer needing the ground and air routes, the relationship between the two countries will be quite different. “Post Afghanistan: US-Pakistan relations stand on the edge of a precipice”, Brookings Institute, October 13, 2021.
Corruption and the Former Afghan Government. Wahidullah Azizi, an analyst and anti-corruption activist, writes on the role corruption played over the past two decades. “How Corruption Played a Role in the Demise of the Afghan Government”, The Diplomat, October 13, 2021.
Photo: Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Nicholas Kostovny gives a welcome brief to new Afghan evacuees aboard Fort Pickett, Virginia, Oct. 9, 2021. (USMC Lance Cpl. Zachary Zephir)