Afghan Evac Update – Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Flight from Kosovo

Topics: News about Afghanistan, evacuation of AMCITs, LPRs, and at-risk Afghans, pilots in Tajikistan, Afghan evacuees in Kosovo, DoS’s ‘Sponsor Circle”, UK resettlement problems, new Afghan resistance movement, hearings on Afghanistan, life under the Taliban, DoD presser, . . . . . and more.

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Afghan Evacuation

Video of Kabul NEO Events. Afghans describe the chaos at the Kabul airport in August 2021 and how they are now trying to get on one of the few charter flights run by private organizations. “Failed escapes at Kabul airport led to living nightmares for these Afghans in hiding: The Last 96”, Fox News, October 25, 2021.

How 120 Afghans Left Their Country. As the Taliban took over groups of volunteers used WhatsApp and hand-drawn flags to help people escape. On a summer day an Afghan television host who is known throughout Afghanistan found himself asking a stranger on WhatsApp if he had to climb into a ditch of stinking sewage in order to get onto the Kabul airport. “Yes, I am afraid you have to get wet” was the response. “How to get 120 Afghans out of Kabul”, Economist, October 21, 2021.

Pilots in Tajikistan Hope for Relocation. Around 150 Afghan Air Force members are still in a sanatorium in a rural, mountainous area near Dushanbe. They are waiting for a U.S. flight to a third country and then eventual resettlement in the United States. Afghan Air Force personnel have already been relocated from Uzbekistan to the United Arab Emirates. Return to Afghanistan is a death sentence as the Taliban have been hunting down and killing Afghan pilots. “U.S. hopes to soon relocate Afghan pilots who fled to Tajikistan, official says”, Reuters, October 22, 2021.

Afghans in India – Want to Go Home. Some Afghan citizens who went to India for medical treatment before the Taliban took power now want to go home. About 150,000 Afghans are in India at the moment – some living there and some visiting. There are about 15,000 university students in this number as well as minority Hindus and Sikhs who relocated from Afghanistan. There are about 2,000 Afghans who wish to return to Afghanistan from India. Thus far there have been three flights from India to Afghanistan carrying about 350 people total. Many Afghans cannot afford the expensive airline ticket home and are running out of money in India. “Completely Lost: For Some Afghans, Returning Home is as Difficult as Fleeing”, The New York Times, October 23, 2021.

USCIS Overwhelmed. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has about six officers to process about 20,000 humanitarian requests for Afghans seeking relocation to the United States following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August. This is 10 times the number of humanitarian applications that are submitted from around the world in a typical year according to a USCIS official. Humanitarian Parole is a special status that allows a foreigner to enter the U.S. under emergency conditions. Once in the United States “parolees” can apply for legal status. There are estimates that the number of Afghan humanitarian parole requests could go as high as 150,000 in a year. Afghans can apply for HP while in Afghanistan – but once they receive pre-approval, they’re required to travel to a third country for vetting at a U.S. consulate. “US Immigration Agency Overwhelmed by 20,000 Afghan Humanitarian Requests”, Voice of America, October 24, 2021.

Afghans in Kosovo. Some Afghans have been diverted to Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo from a ‘lily pad’ in the Middle East. The DoD has stated that they need additional processing before heading to the United States. Apparently some of these individuals were ‘flagged’ by counterterrorism, intelligence, or law enforcement professionals as needing “significant further consideration”. “Flagged Afghan evacuees quietly sent to US base in Kosovo”, Washington Examiner, October 25, 2021. See also “Secrecy shrouds Afghan refugees sent by US to base in Kosovo”, Military Times, October 24, 2021.

Afghan Evacuee Resettlement

Sponsor Circle. The recently announced Department of State initiative entitled Sponsor Circles has generated some excitement. The prospect of increasing the ability to help Afghan evacuees has raised hopes that the resettlement process will be less stressful and more responsive and effective. But there are some questions. For instance, slide 27 entitled “Benefits and Services Alert” has some unsettling news for those looking to use the program – some federal benefits may be eliminated for those participating in the Sponsor Circle program. This is a case where you have to read the fine print; DoS must have had some lawyers crafting this program.

UK Afghan Resettlement – There are Some Questions. There are complaints of a chaotic system as local councils try to find suitable homes for Afghan refugees now in the United Kingdom. “Home Office refuses to reveal details of Afghan resettlement”, The Guardian, October 24, 2021.

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Welcome US Miles - Afghan Evac

Security and Life Under the Taliban

New Resistance Movement. Two high-profile members of the Afghanistan political world have announced the formation of a new political movement. They are looking to establish a dialogue with the Islamic Emirate; but are prepared to take up arms to resist if necessary. The “High Council of National Resistance of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan” says it represents a number of mainstream political groups in the country. “Islamic Emirate Reacts to Newly-Formed ‘Resistance Council'”, Tolo News, October 24, 2021.

Clash in Herat. Sixteen people were killed in a fight between fighters of the Islamic Emirate and a group of armed men in the western province of Herat. Three Taliban fighters were killed. “16 People Killed in Herat Clashes”, Tolo News, October 25, 2021.

Life Under the Taliban. Mahbouba Seraj, founder of the Afghan Women’s Network, is interviewed about life with the new Taliban regime and what Afghan women face in this new era. “On GPS: Afghanistan 10 weeks into Taliban rule”, CNN Videos, October 24, 2021.

Climate Change and Afghanistan. Now that the security situation (for some) has stabilized – most Afghans are more secure. Unless you were a former interpreter for the U.S. or NATO, a member of the Afghan elite SOF units, or flew for the Afghan Air Force. What is now emerging is the realization that starvation is one of the biggest threats. There are many factors contributing to the lack of food – closed border crossings, scarce cash in the financial system, lost jobs, etc. Also contributing to the lack of food is prevalent droughts. “Climate change now worse than war for Afghan farmers”, France24, October 25, 2021.

Looming Catastrophe. The latest report from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Food Programme (WFP) has revealed that the lives of over 22 million people will be severely impacted in Afghanistan. Many are facing hunger in the coming winter and there is a need for an urgent international response to prevent a humanitarian crisis. This is the highest number of acutely food insecure people ever recorded by the UN, during 10 years of conducting food security analyses in Afghanistan. “Afghanistan on ‘countdown to catastrophe’ without urgent humanitarian relied”, UN News, October 25, 2021.

Taliban Provides Assurances to UN. The Taliban regime met with the United Nation’s special representative to Afghanistan on Saturday, October 23rd. Deborah Lyons, who is also head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), said that the UN is willing to cooperate with the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan to resolve economic problems and support the financial banking system. “Taliban assure UN of protecting their administrations in Afghanistan”, Khaama Press, October 24, 2021.

Talking about Afghanistan

Hearing. The U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services will be hearing testimony on security in Afghanistan and in the regions of South and Central Asia. The witnesses will be Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl and Lieutenant General James Mingus (Director for Operations, J3 Joint Staff). The event will take place on Tuesday, October 26, 2021 at 9:30 AM. Kahl and Mingus are expected to face tough questioning from lawmakers this week over the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan and the long-term security impact of the U.S. military leaving Afghanistan.

Podcast – China and Afghanistan. Since the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan a few months back China has been paying increasing attention to the neighbor that it shares a 76-kilometer border. This is the topic of a discussion hosted by Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty featuring Sirojissin Tolibov and Raffaell Pantucci. “Taliban’s Takeover Changes China’s Central Asia Strategy”, RFE/RL, October 26, 2021, 50 minutes.

DoD Press Conference. Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby held a press briefing on Monday, October 25, 2021. He was asked if the U.S. military was looking at taking action to bring U.S. citizens or at-risk Afghans out of Afghanistan. The answer was “No”. He acknowledged that the DoD was taking part in informal discussion with organizations working to get AMCITs, LPRs, and at-risk Afghans out of Afghanistan. He provided a ‘numbers update’:

Central Command – 3,000 Afghan evacuees
European Command – 463 Afghan evacuees
CONUS – 53,157 (at eight locations)
Released for Resettlement – 6,689

And more about Kosovo:

“So what I can tell you is we’ve surged resources, and we’ve deployed some additional personnel from relevant departments and agencies overseas to Camp Bondsteel to effectively vet individuals who require further processing before onward movement. And there are a range of Afghan evacuees at Bondsteel to include many Afghan families, women, and children, who’ve we’ve definitely prioritized being able to keep them together. 

I think it’s also important to remember that all individuals have to pass our security screening and vetting process and receive the necessary vaccinations before proceeding with their onward travel to the United States. So per our agreement with the government of Kosovo, we will relocate Afghans that are housed at Bondsteel to the United States or a third country within 365 days. And again, for more questions on that, I’d point you to the National Security Council.”

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby, October 25, 2021.


Afghanistan, NATO, and the U.S. Leadership Role. Andrew Radin, a political scientist at the RAND Corporation and former country director for Afghanistan in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, has some thoughts on the relationship of NATO and the United States as it relates to the ISAF – and later – Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan. The U.S. decision to withdraw from Afghanistan was not a shared decision with its NATO allies. In fact, the Allies seem to have preferred a more condition-based troop withdrawal. After the withdrawal the NATO allies were uncharacteristically public in their criticism of the United States. This will have an effect on the U.S. leadership role in NATO in the future. “Reconsidering U.S. Decision-Making Within NATO After the Fall of Kabul”, War on the Rocks, October 25, 2021.


Photo: U.S.-affiliated Afghans depart Pristina International Airport in Kosovo, Oct. 16, 2021. During their temporary stay at Camp Liya, Afghan families received housing, medical and logistical support from Task Force Ever Vigilant, consisting of soldiers with the 15th Engineer Battalion and the 18th Military Police Brigade of the 21st Theater Sustainment Command. Photo by Army Sgt. Gloria Kamencik, Oct 16, 2021.