Topics: News about Afghanistan, evacuation of AMCITs, LPRs, and Afghans with PPs / visas, flights from MeS, lily pads closing down, female lawyers flown to Greece, big changes to resettlement process, Sponsor Circle program, EU to reopen mission in Kabul, ISIS-K attacks, hunger this winter, Khalilzad, Pakistan intel helps Taliban, persecution of Hazaras, . . . . . and more.
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Flights Continue. The vast majority of the evacuee flights are by private organizations renting charter aircraft and flying people to multiple destinations in the Middle East and Europe. Some are publicized by the Afghan evac organizations while others are taking place ‘under the radar’. Most of the Afghans on these ‘non-DoS’ flights do not go to any of the DoD established ‘lily pads’. There are some critics that say the Afghans are then placed in a tenuous position of being in a third country with no legal status – and subject to spending months and possibly years in a refugee camp. But others contend that some of the evacuees are at-risk if remaining in Afghanistan and would likely face torture and death by the Taliban if hunted down and captured. Those who are known to be extremely vulnerable are interpreters who worked for the United States and other coalition partners and former members of the Afghan Special Security Forces (ASSF), National Directorate of Security (NDS), Afghan Air Force (AAF), and Special Mission Wing (SMW).
Lily Pads Closing Down. There are reports that many of transit locations or ‘lily pads’ in Europe have either closed or will soon be completely empty of Afghan evacuees. Ramstein Air Base, Naval Air Station Sigonella, and Naval Station Rota were transit points for Afghan evacuees. There are some Afghans at Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo. As the eight camps on U.S. military installations begin to flow people out to communities across America housing spaces for Afghans located overseas at the transit locations are opening up. There is a transit base run by the Department of Defense in Qatar – with as many as 4,000 evacuees undergoing processing, in the midst of the 21-day wait period after immunizations, or waiting on space in one of the military installations.
Torkham Gate and Chaman. Thousands of Afghans made their way to a Pakistan border crossing when news broke about pedestrian traffic being allowed. Massive crowds enveloped the crossing point and Pakistan had to deploy extra security personnel. 801 pedestrians were allowed across the border on Friday. “Afghans throng Torkham to enter Pakistan”, Dawn, October 23, 2021. The border crossing at Chaman has been having difficulties as well. “Chaman shut in protest against border closure”, Dawn, October 23, 2021.
Passport Services. The Kabul passport offices in the provinces have yet to come online due to technical problems. Once these are resolved the passport distribution process will begin again – according to the head of the passport department, Alam Gul Haqqani. “Passport Services to Begin in Provinces: Officials”, Tolo News, October 25, 2021.
Female Lawyers and Judges Flown to Greece on Sunday. Former judges under the old Afghan government are now in hiding and desperate to find a way out of Afghanistan. This is especially true for those Afghan judges who are women. A number of female judges and lawyers with their families are now in Greece. There were about 500 registered female lawyers and 250 female judges prior to the Taliban takeover. Greece said that over 367 Afghan citizens – mostly judiciary workers arrived in Athens on Sunday where they were offered temporary shelter. “Afghan women lawyers on the run face life in limbo abroad”, Reuters, October 25, 2021.
Afghan Evacuee Resettlement
White House Makes Changes to Resettlement Program. The arrival of thousands of Afghan evacuees on eight U.S. military installations has stressed a system that has not seen any updates for over 40 years (1980). The refugee resettlement program has not seen significant changes since the culminating days of the Vietnamese boat people exodus of the late 1970s. To increase options for evacuees the resettlement program will now allow veterans with ties to Afghans (and others) the opportunity to bring them to communities and serve as a support network for them. Among the changes, the new initiative would allow groups of five individuals over the age of 18 to apply as a so-called sponsor circle. This could be a bit of a game-changer for some Afghan evacuees. “White House makes massive change to resettlement program to help Afghan refugees”, CNN Politics, October 23, 2021. See also “Launch of the Sponsor Circle Program for Afghans”, U.S. Department of State, October 25, 2021. Visit the Sponsor Circles website at https://www.sponsorcircles.org/
Life Under the Taliban
Pakistan Intel Helping Afghanistan. There are several countries concerned about the potential growth of the Islamic State in Afghanistan. One of them is Pakistan, so it should be no surprise to learn that the Pakistanis are providing the Taliban with intelligence assistance. “Pakistan using informal intelligence channels to prop up Taliban fight against ISIS”, The Washington Post, October 23, 2021.
Hazaras – Forced From Their Land. Human Rights Watch says the Taliban has forced hundreds of Hazara families to leave their homes and farms from the southern Helmand province and northern Balkh province. The land is then distributed to Taliban supporters. “Taliban forcibly evicting Hazaras, former govt officials, giving land to supporters”, The Print, October 23, 2021.
Afghans Facing Hunger. United Nations agencies warned on Monday, October 25th, that the humanitarian situation has deteriorated significantly and that half the people of Afghanistan will face “acute food insecurity”. The combined impacts of drought, conflict, and economic decline have caused a dire situation. “UN Says Nearly 23 Million Afghans Face Acute Hunger”, Voice of America, October 25, 2021.
Governance, Security, International
EU to Reopen Afghan Mission. The European Union was very involved in the reconstruction and stabilization of Afghanistan over the past twenty years. With the fall of the Afghan government in August 2021 it closes its mission in Kabul. Now it appears that the EU will begin a limited engagement with the Taliban regime as part of a calibrated approach. The organization believes it can play a role in lobbying for the protection of human rights if it has a presence in Kabul. The European External Action Service will open an office that would house its officials and that could be used by diplomats from member states as well. Currently Qatar is serving as a go-between for western states and the Taliban regime. “EU plans to reopen Afghanistan diplomatic mission within a month“, Financial Times, October 24, 2021.
ISIS-K Attacks. The Islamic State of Khorasan Province (ISFP) continues to carry out bombings and other types of attacks against the Shia religious minority group in Afghanistan. The group has been conducting attacks on mosques, hospitals, schools, and other targets – especially in Shia neighborhoods. “Afghanistan: Surge in Islamic State Attacks on Shia”, Human Rights Watch, October 25, 2021.
Khalilzad and Afghan Failure. The former US special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad is continuing to talk about his role in negotiating the disastrous Trump-era withdrawal agreement with the Taliban in February 2020. He is offering up as one of the primary reasons for pursuing the agreement was that the US and Afghan government were not winning the war, time was not on our side, and that it was better to make a deal sooner rather than later. “US Was Losing War So It Negotiated: Khalilizad”, Tolo News, October 25, 2021.
Photo: An evacuee from Afghanistan waves before boarding a flight at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Oct. 15, 2021. This is one of the final outbound flights to leave Ramstein after a three-week pause. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Trevor Rhynes)