Topics: More DoS flights?, at-risk Afghans waiting for action, UK evacuation of Afghans, health care needs, mosque bombing in Kunduz, Taliban quick reaction force on Tajik border, Gates on Afghan withdrawal, and more.
DoS: More ‘Routine’ Evacuation Flights. Thus far the Department of State has been largely unsuccessful in organizing evacuation flights for American citizens, Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs with green cards), at-risk Afghans with approved or pending Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs). Apparently, that will all change in the future – according to the Department of State. On Thursday, Ned Price, the spokesman for State said that evacuation charter flights will become more routine in the coming months. CAUTION: A lot of what this DoS spokesman has said thus far has not passed close scrutiny – a lot of smoke and mirrors. The DoS workers on the undermanned and overwhelmed task force seem to be doing stellar work under extremely trying conditions. However, this spokesman has put the DoS’s credibility in question. See the press conference video and transcript – “Department Press Briefing – October 14, 2021”, U.S. Department of State, October 14, 2021.
Relatives of U.S. Service Members in Afghanistan? The Department of Defense continues to offload responsibility for the Afghan evacuation onto the Department of State. It is obvious that it is “Mission Complete” for the Department of Defense – at least if you listen to spokesman John Kirby at the press conferences. A recent news report cited attempts by Congress to have either the DoS or DoD assist in the evacuation of relatives of U.S. military service members. When asked on the number of those direct relatives who may still be stuck in Afghanistan, John Kirby responded: “I don’t. I’d — I’d point you to the State Department for that”. When asked if the Pentagon is doing anything to try to aid these relatives, he once again the cookie-cut answer that “This is an effort being led by the State Department”. “Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby Holds a Press Briefing”, DoD Transcript, October 12, 2021.
Afghans Are Waiting for Action by U.S. Thousands of people are awaiting action by the United States government . . . but sadly many have been disappointed by a lack of effective action to evacuate them. Some do get out – but it is a tiny fraction of the AMCITs, LPRs, and at-risk Afghans with approved or pending Special Immigrant Visas. “Many Afghans pack their bags, hoping for the chance to leave“, AP News, October 14, 2021.
UK Evacuates At-Risk Afghans. Between 30-40 people have been evacuated from Afghanistan and will arrive in the United Kingdom on Friday, September 15th. (The Guardian, Oct 14, 2021).
Shelter for Afghan Minors. Unaccompanied minor Afghan children will be staying in a temporary housing arrangement in Michigan maintained by the Department of Health and Human Services. Currently there are over 200 such children in the care of the HHS. There are over 60 at the Michigan at the present time. “HHS repurposes an emergency intake site in Michigan for unaccompanied Afghan minors”, CNN.com, October 14, 2021.
Health Care Needs of Afghan Evacuees. Many of the recent Afghan evacuees who recently have arrived in the United States have immediate or long-term physical and mental health conditions. Some of the recent arrivals have Special Immigrant Status (SIV) or some other temporary status which makes them eligible for federal public benefits. However, there is some significant work ahead to deliver health care to the Afghan evacuees. “The challenge of addressing the health care needs of Afghan evacuees”, Brookings Institute, October 14, 2021.
Security, China, and Analysis
Mosque Bombing in Kandahar. Perhaps as many as forty people were killed when a Shia mosque was bombed on October 15th, Friday. The incident happened during Friday prayers. Many more people were injured. “Blast at mosque in Afghan city of Kandahar, at least 15 dead”, Reuters, October 15, 2021.
Quick Reaction Force for Badakhshan Province and Tajik Border. The Taliban regime have moved an elite unit into the northeastern province to maintain security and protect the borders. The province shares a border with Tajikistan. (Tolo News, Oct 14, 2021).
China Assuming a Leading Role? The Taliban’s rise to power has changed the geopolitical environment in Asia. Pakistan has emerged as the victor in the long 20-year engagement of the United States in the over 40 years of conflict in Afghanistan. Also coming out on top is China – it would seem. China’s relationship with Afghanistan will be transactional – and much of that will depend on the security situation in Afghanistan. Kambaiz Rafi examines this topic in detail in “Will China Replace the US in Afghanistan”, RUSI, October 14, 2021. Paul Shinkman also looks at China’s role in Afghanistan and how violence in the country may affect China’s future engagement in “Violence Undermines China’s Plans in Afghanistan, Risks Luring it Into Quagmire”, US News and World Report, October 14, 2021.
Gates on Afghan Withdrawal. Former Secretary of Defense and CIA Director Robert Gates served a number of U.S. presidents during his long career in government. He was interviewed on a “60 Minutes” segment (coming this Sunday) and has some harsh comments for both President Trump and President Biden on the Afghan withdrawal. “Robert Gates: Afghanistan withdrawal ‘probably did not need to have turned out that way'”, The Hill, October 14, 2021.
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Top Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Wendy Cifuentes plays with an Afghan child during a celebration of the International Day of the Girl Child on Fort Pickett, Virginia, Oct. 11, 2021 (U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Zachary Zephir)