Afghan Update – Wednesday, Oct 20, 2021

Danish Soldier Spotting at HKIA

Topics: Evacuation flights, Khalilizad resigns (or gets fired), commercial flights to Pakistan resume, Afghan evac stories, women judges hiding in fear, DoS watchdog activities, commission needed for Afghanistan, economic news, humanitarian crisis looming, and more.

Evacuation from Afghanistan

Aircraft Departures. Aircraft continue to fly from Mazar-i-Shafir and Kabul, Afghanistan carrying foreign nationals, American citizens, lawful permanent residents, and Afghans who are at-risk. Evacuation flights from Kabul have predominantly been organized by Qatar utilizing Qatar Airways aircraft. Flights from Mazar-i-Sharif have been organized by private non-governmental organizations.

Veteran Volunteers Assist Afghans in Escape from Afghanistan. An informal network that includes former government and military officials have been working around the clock to fulfill a pledge to save Afghans who put their lives on the line for America. “These U.S. Veterans Won’t Rest Until They’ve Kept a Wartime Promise”, The New York Times, October 19, 2021.

Pakistan Flights to Resume? Afghanistan’s ministry of transport and civil aviation said that international flights can resume between Kabul and Islamabad. The decision was made after the acting minister of transport and civil aviation met with Pakistan’s ambassador to Kabul and authorities of three airlines servicing the Kabul – Islamabad route. The airlines agreed to reduce ticket prices. Recently, PIA was charging $2,500 for each ticket – an increase over the usual $150. “Kam Air, Ariana, PIA to resume flights from Kabul to Pakistan”, The Khaama Press, October 16, 2021.

Uzbekistan and Afghan Evacuees. Afghans who fled before, during, or after the fall of Kabul to the northern neighbor country of Uzbekistan are finding that their legal status is tenuous. Some have temporary Uzbek visas that will run out soon and could find themselves returned to Afghanistan. Read more in an article by the Association of Human Rights in Central Asia, “Uzbekistan: Afghanistani refugees at risk of refoulement”,, October 19, 2021.

Afghan Evacuees in U.S. – Many are Children. In a letter to lawmakers, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin provided some insight into the population of Afghans evacuated over the past few months. The vast majority of them are now living in temporary arrangements on one of eight military installations across the country. “Almost half of Afghan evacuees at U.S. Bases are Children, Pentagon Says”, The Wall Street Journal, October 20, 2021.

Living and Surviving Under the Taliban

Women Judges – Hiding in Fear. Hundreds of female judges in Afghanistan are now living in fear of the Taliban and Afghan criminals. Many of them presided over cases of violence against women – those convicted are now on the streets seeking revenge. “Women judges live in fear, hide under Taliban rule”, ANI News (IN), October 18, 2021.

Interpreter for Australians Executed. This past week a former Afghan soldier who worked as an interpreter for the Australian Defence Force (ADF) was killed by the Taliban. The interpreter’s sister lives in Australia and has been trying to secure humanitarian visas for the soldier and his family. The Australian government has allocated 3,000 places within its humanitarian intake for this financial year, however, more than 10,000 Afghans have applied for the visa program since the fall of Kabul. Apparently the Australians, based on this article, are slow-rolling the visa process. Looks like they are taking their lead from the U.S. Department of State. “Afghan interpreter who worked with Australian troops murdered by Taliban”,, October 20, 2021.

Taliban 2.0? Not so Much. The Taliban have not changed over the past 20 years. Now that the international attention on Afghanistan has slackened the Taliban are being exactly who we thought they would be. The group is reverting to its old tactics. The west has considerable leverage over the Taliban in the form of monetary assistance and humanitarian aid. However, it isn’t clear that the western governments have a unified plan going forward. “The Taliban Is Just as Bad as It Always Was”, The Atlantic, October 16, 2021.

Suicide Bomber Families Recognized and Supported. The Acting Minister of Interior Affairs, Sarajudin Haqqani, met with the families of suicide bombers who conducted attacks in the past two decades in Afghanistan targeting foreign and Afghan troops. Money was provided to the families and some were pledged to be distributed a plot of land each. “Taliban give money reward, pledge land to suicide bombers families”, Khaama Press, October 19, 2021.

Special TB Unit in Balkh. Provincial security officials said that a special unit is tasked with ensuring the security of Mazar-e-Sharif. The elite special forces unit is named the “Mansouri Division” and is equipped with special weapons. “Mansouri Special Unit Created in Balkh Province”, Tolo News, October 19, 2021.

Kabul Hospital – TB and ANDSF Are Treated. There are few hospitals in Kabul that can treat war victims who need prosthetic limbs. One of the is the beneficiary of the orthopaedic programme for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The center is one of seven operated by the Red Cross in Afghanistan . . . and treats all comers equally. “In Kabul clinic, Taliban and the soldiers they fought confront wounds of war”, Reuters, October 20, 2021.

Economy, Development, and Governance

TB and Afghan Central Bank Reserves. Deputy U.S. Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo says that he sees no situation where the Taliban can get access to Afghan central bank reserves which are largely held in the United States. The U.S. has put a block on more than $9 billion of Afghanistan’s money. The Treasury is taking steps to facilitate the flow of aid to Afghanistan but at the same time staying true to the sanctions regime it is following. “Taliban won’t be allowed access to Afghan central bank reserves”, Reuters, October 19, 2021.

Afghan Economy Faltering. The Taliban are buttressing relations with local businessmen to keep them operating, while the leadership makes its case for international recognition. Afghanistan’s economy has been fueled by donor aid and international trade. However, without the international donors public salaries cannot be paid and basic government services cannot be provided. “Afghan economy on the brink, Taliban rely on former technocrats”, The New Indian Express, October 19, 2021.

Future Refugee Crisis. Afghanistan’s economy is set to contract up to 30% this year and this will likely further fuel a refugee flow into neighboring countries and beyond. Those nearby countries are reluctant to take in the refugees due to the enormous costs of sheltering them. “Afghanistan’s economic collapse could prompt refugee crisis, Reuters, October 19, 2021.

Video – Afghan Business Women Lose out. The Taliban have impose a ban on women working outside. “Afghan Women Lose Businesses as Taliban Bar Them from Work”, Voice of America, October 19, 2021, 3 minutes.

Fall of Afghanistan – The Aftermath in the U.S.

Khalilzad Resigns. The man responsible for leading the Trump administration’s negotiations with the Taliban that led to the February 2020 U.S. withdrawal agreement has resigned. U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilizad will be remembered for the disastrous agreement under the Trump administration and as a cheerleader for the horrible ending to the withdrawal of the U.S. military under the Biden administration. The State Department announced on Monday, October 18, 2021, that Khalilzad would be replaced by his deputy, Thomas West. History will not judge Khalilzad kindly. “Top US envoy to Afghanistan Khalilzad steps down”, Deutsche Welle, October 18, 2021.

DoS Watchdog. The State Department’s IG office has notified Congress that it is opening multiple investigations into the end of the U.S. diplomatic operations in Afghanistan. Part of the review will be about the Special Immigrant Visa program, the processing of Afghan evacuees, and the emergency evacuation of the U.S. embassy in Kabul. “State Department inspector general to investigate end of Afghanistan operations“, USA Today, October 19, 2021. See also “State IG launches investigations into end of Afghanistan operations”, Politico, October 18, 2021.

Commission Needed for Afghanistan. Annie Pforzheimer, a former acting deputy assistant secretary of state for Afghanistan and a former deputy chief of mission in the U.S. embassy in Kabul, shares her thoughts in the way forward in the U.S. approach to Afghanistan. She believes that a national commission could help ensure that there is interagency cooperation when solving the problems with the Special Immigrant Visa program and the issues of evacuation and resettlement of Afghans. “How to Keep the U.S. From Forgetting About Afghanistan”, The Washington Monthly, October 14, 2021.


Photo: A Danish coalition service member holds up a Danish flag to identify families during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan, August 21, 2021. U.S. service members and coalition forces are assisting the Department of State with a non-combatant evacuation operation (NEO) in Afghanistan. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Victor Mancilla)