Topics: News about Afghanistan, evacuation of AMCITs, LPRs, and at-risk Afghans, air miles donated, Congressional hearings, China and the Taliban, Sponsor Circle program, new army for Afghanistan, video – leaving Fort Lee, . . . . . and more.
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450 AMCITs Trapped? The number of Americans in Afghanistan seems to be a lot higher than the Department of State figures presented in past weeks. According to a Fox News report there are nearly 450 American citizens still in Afghanistan. A DoD official stated during Congressional testimony that the Department of State is in contact with 196 American citizens ready to depart and that another 243 American citizens have been contacted and are not ready to depart – either because they want to stay in Afghanistan or are not ready. “Pentagon confirms nearly 450 Americans trapped in Afghanistan”, Fox News, October 16, 2021.
Haqqani Network, AMCITs, and ‘Hostage Taking’. Over the last half-century, the Haqqani network has grown from a relatively small, tribal-based jihadist network into one of the most powerful terrorist syndicates in South Asia. Now that the Taliban have taken power the Haqqani network holds significant political power. Dr. Melissa Skorka served four consecutive tours in Afghanistan from 2011 to 2014, she provides her perspective on perils of ‘hostage taking’ of Americans currently in Afghanistan. “What We, the United States of America, Want | The Haqqani Network Must Not Be Allowed to Hold U.S. Interests Hostage”, The Caravan Notebook, Hoover Institution, September 14, 2021.
Zac Lois and Task Force Pineapple. A former Green Beret and history teacher is on a leave of absence from work to help Afghans that are at-risk to escape Afghanistan. He is part of a group of hundreds of veterans who formed up to assist Afghan allies after concluding that the State Department was unprepared and unwilling to assist Afghans who risked their lives to serve as interpreters with U.S. military forces in Afghanistan. He estimates that Task Force Pineapple (TFP) has gotten over 1,000 vetted allies out of Afghanistan. But there is more work to be done – TFP has more than 5,000 still on its list of Afghans needing evacuation. The Afghans on the list include former Afghan military personnel, journalists, advocates for LGBTQ and women’s rights, and others. TFP is actively ‘shepherding’ about 800 families. “Wisconsin veteran helps U.S. allies escape Afghanistan through Task Force Pineapple”, Spectrum News, October 26, 2021.
Project Rabbit – Project Suspended? The Defense Department made a big deal about a program to assist Special Immigrant Visa applicants to document their work experience. However, the link to the online form has not been working the past few days. https://afghanwarnews.info/taliban-victory-2021/project-rabbit.htm
Airman Donates Famous Uniform Jacket. The USAF member whose uniform jacket was used to cover a sleeping Afghan girl on board a C-17 evacuating Afghans from the Kabul airport in August is donating it to the National History Museum. The jacket covering the young Afghan girl was an iconic photo of the August 2021 Kabul NEO. There were more than 800 Afghans on the huge cargo plane during the August 15th flight. “Airman who helped with Afghan evacuations donates blouse from iconic photo”, Air Force Times, October 26, 2021.
“Leave No One Behind”. Navy SEAL Commander Dan O’Shea is a retired multiple tour veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflict who has been assisting in the ongoing evacuation of at-risk Afghan partners. He argues that the White House misinformation, the Department of State hindrance, and the Department of Defense indifference raises important questions about the current leadership of this administration. “Leave No One Behind” Is a Promise, Not a Talking Point”, CD Media, October 22, 2021.
Afghan Evacuee Resettlement
Sponsor Circle Program. As the news spreads about the Department of States new program for assisting Afghan evacuees more articles are being published about it. Traditionally the US government has relied on private relocation agencies and nonprofits, however, the massive intake of Afghan refugees in a short period has stressed that system. “Any US Citizen Can Now Sponsor Afghan Refugees”, Coffee or Die Magazine, October 25, 2021.
Flights Donated. Airlines and travel industry firms are donating 20,000 flights to help Afghan refugees get to their final destinations in American. This matches over 20,000 flights that have been donated by individual Americans through frequent flyer miles and credit card points. “Airlines, industry executives donating 20,000 flights to Afghan evacuees”, The Hill, October 26, 2021. See also “Miles donations are providing flights for Afghan refugees“, AP News, October 26, 2021.
Former Interpreter on Afghan Allies. Ahmed Mushref served as an interpreter for U.S. military units in Iraq. He now heads up an agency that provides refugee services in Texas and is asking the American public to step forward and assist the Afghans who are now arriving in the United States. “Former interpreter: Afghan allies need our help”, Military Times, October 26, 2021.
Orphans to Colorado. Denver will be receiving Afghan orphans who were evacuated from Afghanistan according to the Denver Human Services. Most of the children are teenagers and are among the 360 unaccompanied and separated Afghan children that were registered in the U.S. DoD-run ‘lily pads’ in Europe and the Middle East. “30 Afghan orphans are Colorado bound after traumatic escape”, The Denver Gazette, October 23, 2021.
Economy, Security, and Governance
New Armed Forces for Afghanistan. Soldiers from the former regime may be included in the formation of new armed forces under the Taliban regime. In an audio message released by the defense ministry on Sunday it was announced that support for the new army may come from China and Russia. “Taliban to form new armed forces including former regime troops”, Arab News, October 27, 2021.
Iran – Be Careful What You Ask For. Iran is glad the Americans are gone, but the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan creates a host of problems for Tehran, with no easy solutions. For twenty years Iran sheltered Al Qaeda’s top leaders, courted the Taliban with diplomatic visits, and supplied Afghan insurgents with weapons. Since August a militant Sunni theocracy is on its border, thousands of Afghan refugees have fled to Iran, and attacks are taking place against minority Hazaras – who are mostly Shiites. “Iran Wanted U.S. Out of Afghanistan. It May Be Sorry the Wish Came True”, by Farnaz Fassihi, The New York Times, October 26, 2021.
China. The Chinese Foreign Minister met with Taliban representatives during a trip this week to the Persian Gulf nation of Qatar. China is urging the Taliban to keep border crossings open while offering $31 million in humanitarian assistance along with 3 million doses of Chinese-made COVID-19 vaccines. “Chinese, Taliban representatives to meet in Qatar”, AP News, October 25, 2021. See also “Afghanistan, China to create committees for strengthening bilateral relations”, Khaama Press, October 26, 2021.
IOM Plan for Afghanistan. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has published its five year plan for assisting refugees and displaced persons of Afghanistan. Read more in “IOM Comprehensive Action Plan for Afghanistan and Neighboring Countries”, August 2021, PDF, 17 pages.
Tajikistan – Good Partner for Europe? European leaders concerned with Afghanistan’s security situation may see the Central Asian country as a useful partner to limit refugee flows to Europe. “Tajik President Emomali Rahmon’s European Tour”, The Diplomat, October 26, 2021.
Terrorism from Afghanistan. Colin Kahl, the Defense Department’s Under Secretary for Policy, stated that terrorist groups within Afghanistan could strike international targets within six months if left unchecked. He said “We’re actually fairly certain that they have the intention to do so”. He was testifying before Congress on Tuesday about the withdrawal from Afghanistan. “Terrorist groups in Afghanistan could launch international strikes within six months, officials warn”, Military Times, October 26, 2021.
ISIS and China. One of China’s concerns is the security situation in Afghanistan and the prospect of terrorist groups exporting their violence into China. “Is the Islamic State in Afghanistan Targeting China?”, The Diplomat, October 26, 2021.
People Talking about Afghanistan
Congressional Testimony. Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl and Lt. Gen James Mingus defended the Biden administration’ arguments that the quick fall of the Western-backed Afghan government was unexpected. They said that the Pentagon has a good ‘over-the-horizon’ capability to take care of any terrorist threats that emerge from Afghanistan that would threaten the homeland. They also had to defend the poor performance of the administration in the hasty, last minute evacuation of the US embassy, American citizens, lawful permanent residents, and the Afghans at-risk who had Special Immigrant Visas or SIVs. Watch the video here.
A DOD press release about the testimony reported that the officials praised the actions of U.S. service members in the non-combatant evacuation operation from Afghanistan and detailed how the Defense Department is working with other government agencies to resettle the Afghan evacuees in the United States. The officials said that more than 10,000 service members are assisting in the resettlement process. “DOD Officials Testify Before Senate Panel on U.S. Actions in Afghanistan”, DOD News, October 26, 2021.
The Numbers. Since September 1st, the day after the US military left Afghanistan, the US has documented 240 Americans and 147 LPRs who have left the country. In addition, private organizations have assisted even more AMCITs in departing Afghanistan.
More Numbers. Although the numbers vary – depending on the source, here are some estimates:
20,000 is the number of Humanitarian Parole applications
65,000 is the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) backlog
US CT – Basing is a Problem. The U.S. has not made much headway in securing basing rights with Central Asian states for a counterterrorism platform. Conversations are taking place with Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and other regional nations . . . but no agreements have been reached thus far. The closest U.S. military bases to Afghanistan are in the Middle East – about 1,500 flight miles away. In July 2021 the Biden administration was arguing that the U.S. had a robust over the horizon capability to strike terrorist targets in Afghanistan. Apparently the tyranny of geography has now become apparent to the administration and the tone has changed. “Pentagon officials, unable to secure basing near Afghanistan, warn of terrorist threat”, The Washington Post, October 26, 2021.
Online Interview for Oct 27th – Hollie Mckay. The Atlantic Council is hosting American journalist Hollie Mckay in an online interview about the situation on the ground in Afghanistan. Mckay has been reporting from Afghanistan since the Taliban took power and will provide her firsthand accounts on issues pertaining to journalists, women rights, and the humanitarian situation. The event will take place on October 27, 2021, from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. ET.
Videos and Think Tank Stuff
Video – Afghan Personnel Departures. Afghan guests are departing to their new home destinations after a stay at Fort Lee, Virginia. Video by Spc. Ruby Torres, DVIDS, October 18, 2021, 1 minute.
Harvard Panel Discussion. Professors and international journalists took part in an online event hosted by Harvard University on Thursday, October 21. The discussion touched on a variety of topics to include the quick collapse of the Afghan government, the U.S. not keeping its NATO allies informed of its Afghanistan decisions, and how China has undermined the U.S.’s long-time dominance in the region. “Scholars, Journalists Discuss U.S.-China Relations, Afghanistan Withdrawal on Virtual Panel”, The Harvard Crimson, October 22, 2021.
Could SOF-Only Approach Had Worked? Michael Perry, a serving member of the U.S. Navy, deployed to Afghanistan in 2020 as an advisor to the Afghan Special Mission Wing (SMW) as part of the Special Operations Advisory Group (SOAG). He examines the history of the Afghan conflict and presents an argument that a ‘light footprint’ utilizing special operations forces may have been a preferable course of action. “A counterfactual look at the Afghan war: The ‘SOF-only” COA and its implications for the future”, Small Wars Journal, October 22, 2021.
Haqqani Network – Global Threat. Melissa Skorka argues that with its close ties to al Qaeda, the Haqqani network’s influence is likely to grow within Afghanistan and beyond. “The Haqqanis Are the New Global Terror Threat”, Wall Street Journal, September 26, 2021.
Photo: A U.S. Air Force Airman administers mumps, measles and rubella, and chickenpox vaccines to a child evacuee awaiting onward travel at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Sept. 18, 2021. Ramstein established two centers where evacuees can volunteer to receive the vaccine to protect them from contracting MMR and varicella. Medical professionals administered varicella and MMR vaccines to more than 3,000 evacuees on the first day of mass vaccinations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Devin Nothstine)