Afghan Update – Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Dona Ana Range Complex

Topics: News about Afghanistan, evacuation of AMCITs, LPRs, and at-risk Afghans, EVAC of Afghan SOF, IS-KP recruits from former ANDSF, SMW pilot in U.S., the new Afghan insurgency, AirBnB, military hospital bombed, Taliban religious ideology, DoD deletes 130,000 war photos, TB’s supreme leader, hospitals short on staff and supplies, sanctions, . . . . . and more.

Subscribe to the Afghan Report Newsletter. Arrives in your email inbox before your morning coffee has perked.

Evacuation from Afghanistan

Call to Evac Afghan SOF. Retired Green Beret Scott Mann says that the Central Intelligence Agency and the Department of Defense should conduct operations to rescue thousands of former Afghan special operations personnel now being hunted and killed in Afghanistan. Taliban hit teams with payroll records and biometric data are systematically rolling up and executing these former Afghan special operators. The Afghan Commandos and other Afghan special operations forces conducted over 70% of the offensive operations for the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) for many years. Mann, a retired Special Forces LTC, led an effort by US SOF veterans to assist Afghan special operators and their families onto the Hamid Karzai International Airport while the U.S. military was conducting its non-combatant evacuation operation (NEO). Most of the Afghan Commandos are now in hiding and on the run – shifting their location frequently to avoid detection from the Taliban. “Appeal for CIA, DoD Clandestine Ops to Rescue Afghan Allies”, Spy Talk, October 31, 2021.

Left Behind – Former Afghan Spies and Soldiers Align with IS-KP. Hunted by the Taliban, unable to live in their homes, lacking jobs and money, some members of the disbanded security forces are now prime recruits for the Islamic State – Khorasan Province or IS-KP. This terrorist group has been in Afghanistan since 2015 and has been a long-time enemy of the Taliban. The number of defectors is relatively small but could grow larger if the Taliban continue to execute the former intelligence officers and special operators of Afghanistan. “Left Behind after U.S. Withdrawal, Some Former Afghan Spies and Soldiers Turn to Islamic State”, The Wall Street Journal, October 31, 2021.

Border Crossings. The two major border crossings between Afghanistan and Pakistan continue to open and close – causing extreme hardship for those hoping to cross into Pakistan. On Monday it was announced that the Chaman-Spin Boldak gate would open after having been closed of a month to trade and pedestrians. (Dawn, Nov 1, 2021).

Letter to NSC From Amnesty International. Leaders of 103 non-governmental organizations with a focus on international development, humanitarian relief, peacebuilding, refugee, immigration and resettlement, and other areas have signed a letter addressed to Jake Sullivan. He is the National Security Advisor to President Biden and head of the White House National Security Council. The signees have requested a meeting with Sullivan and outlined some specific recommendations that will assist at-risk Afghans in Afghanistan. (Amnesty International, November 1, 2021.)

Afghan Support Group (ASG). One website that offers a wealth of information about the evacuation of Afghans may be extremely useful to those Afghans seeking to leave Afghanistan as well as those who are trying to assist in the #AfghanEvac effort.

Afghan Evacuee Resettlement

SMW Pilot – Now in U.S. An ace helicopter pilot in the Afghan Special Mission Wing arrived in the United States in June 2021 just before the collapse of the ANDSF and Afghan government. He ‘was a fearsome foe of the insurgents’ and he was being hunted by the Taliban – receiving constant death threats. It is estimated that he killed more Taliban than any other pilot in the Afghan Air Force while flying his MD-530 attack helicopter. There are over 5,000 members of the Special Mission Wing and their families in Afghanistan – and their situation is precarious now that the Taliban are running the country. Veteran volunteer groups like Operation Sacred Promise are attempting to evacuate the more vulnerable of this group. “I just want to work hard: Afghan pilot who protected US airman starts over in America”, Stars and Stripes, October 29, 2021.

AirBnB – Helping the Afghan Resettlement Effort. In August 2021, announced its pledge to house 20,000 Afghan refugees worldwide. It has stepped up to provide temporary housing and assist in the relocation efforts of many other volunteer organizations during this current refugee crisis. “When Businesses Do Good: Supporting Afghan Refugees”,, October 27, 2021.

Resettlement – A Long Wait in the U.S. Camps. The agencies assisting the U.S. government in the Afghan refugee relocation effort are overwhelmed – lacking adequate staff to handle the extremely large influx of evacuees from Afghanistan. Many Afghans have favorite parts of the country where they would like to relocate – usually where there are established Afghan communities. Unfortunately, some of these areas are expensive to live in and there is a shortage of affordable housing. These, and other factors, combine to make the wait in the U.S. camps very long. “Why are most Afghan evacuees still housed at U.S. military camps?”, Los Angeles Times, October 30, 2021.

Reunited at Camp Atterbury. Ali, an Afghan evacuee now at Camp Atterbury, began working as a translator for the U.S. military beginning in 2008. He came to the United States with his family under the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program in 2016. This past May Ali and his family traveled to Afghanistan to visit his family. He had return tickets to the United States booked for August 21st . . . but the Taliban had taken Kabul on August 15th and he had no escape path. Arriving at Camp Atterbury he and a U.S. soldier that he worked with in Afghanistan had a chance encounter. He was greeted with the words: “Hey man, Ali?” “The World is too small: An Afghan translator and U.S. soldier reunited at Camp Atterbury“, Indy Star, November 2, 2021.

Safe in a Camp – But the Thoughts Are of those Left Behind. Many of the at-risk Afghans who have made their way to America are either in temporary holding camps or have been resettled in communities across the United States. These individuals and their families they brought with them are now safe from the Taliban and have escaped the hunger that will set in this winter in Afghanistan. Their life is full of promise in a country many people across the world would love to live in. But there are regrets . . . all of these newly arrived Afghans have left close family members behind. “For Afghans evacuated to the U.S., a choking fear for loved ones left behind”, The Philadelphia Inquirer, October 30, 2021.

Taliban and Security

DoD Warns of Terrorist Threats. The U.S. has yet to reach an agreement with any of the neighboring countries of Afghanistan for basing rights for counterterrorism units and aircraft. Certainly Iran is out of the question and Pakistan is problematic. The Central Asian nations north of Afghanistan would be an ideal location – but Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and others are reluctant to provide access to their military bases. U.S. officials have continually expressed concern about the Islamic State – Khorasan Province presence in Afghanistan. IS-KP is located primarily in the eastern provinces of Nangarhar and Kunar; although it is attempting to build up in other locations of Afghanistan. Less apparent, it seems, is the concern (or lack of concern) by U.S. officials about al Qaeda. One rarely hears about the threat posed by this terrorist group from U.S. officials – one that is supported and aligned with the Taliban regime. “Pentagon officials, unable to secure basing near Afghanistan, warn of terrorist threat”, The Washington Post, October 26, 2021.

Taliban’s Insurgency Problem. There has been a significant increase in the number of attacks by the Islamic State – Khorasan Province. The Taliban regime now has to learn the art of counterinsurgency. An analysis of IS-KP reveals that its operations has been growing in intensity as well as expanding into other areas of Afghanistan – beyond its support and attack zones in Afghanistan’s eastern provinces. IS-KP is attempting to undermine the Taliban’s credibility, foment internal Taliban division, and attempt to get the Taliban in the middle of a sectarian conflict. There are numerous fault lines in Afghan society – to include ethnic, tribal, religious, linguistic, regional, and cultural differences. “Now the Taliban has its own insurgency problem”, Defence Connect, November 1, 2021.

Kabul Hospital Bombing. At least 15 people (and possibly many more) were killed and 34 wounded when two explosions took place at Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan military hospital in Kabul. The incident happened at the entrance of the 400-bed hospital on Tuesday, November 2, 2021. The Taliban Kabul military commander, Mawlawi Hamdullah, was killed during the attack. (Reuters, Nov 2, 2021).

The Hazara and the Taliban. The Hazara community of Afghanistan has been victimized by the Taliban for decades. Now the new regime wants to make amends . . . or so they say. A new political appointee hopes to set things right. (The Washington Post, Nov 1, 2021).

Supreme Leader Comes Out. The reclusive supreme leader of the Taliban made an appearance in Kandahar. He had not been seen a a few months fueling speculation of a possible death or assassination. His behind the scenes existence has led to many rumors about his whereabouts and health. “Taliban’s reclusive supreme leader appears, belying rumors of his death”, Reuters, October 31, 2021.

Recognizing the Taliban. The new Afghan regime has called on other nations to recognize their government – saying that not to do so will lead to problems for the other nations as well as Afghanistan. Thus far, no nation has formally recognized the Taliban regime and billions of dollars in Afghan assets and funds abroad have been frozen. “Taliban says failure to recognize their government could have global effects”, Reuters, October 30, 2021.

Society, Economy, and Humanitarian Assistance

Will Art Survive in Afghanistan? So far, the Taliban have not banned art outright. But many artists have fled Afghanistan – fearing for their lives. Actors, comedians, singers, musicians, and painters have fled to France, Germany, the United States, or other countries. The Taliban are busy removing artworks, closing music schools, and discouraging artists of all types from practicing their profession. “Afghan Art Flourished for 20 years. Can it Survive the New Taliban Regime?”, The New York Times, October 31, 2021.

Hospital Staff and Taliban – at Odds. The various problems that confronted doctors and hospital administrative staff before the fall of the Afghan government to the Taliban have only gotten worse. Many medical professionals fled Afghanistan. Some have quit their jobs as they have not been paid in months. And now the hospitals are being run by non-medical administrators appointed by the Taliban. “In Afghan hospital, unpaid doctors and rigid Taliban clash”, Associated Press, November 1, 2021. See also “Afghan-Japan Hospital Faces Lack of Equipment, Medicine”, Tolo News, November 2, 2021.

China to the Rescue? The Afghanistan economy is in deep trouble. Almost all foreign aid has ceased since the Taliban came to power. Corruption, drought, COVID-19, capital flight, brain drain (refugees), and other factors are contributing to the economic disruption. It is possible that China will become an important factor in reviving Afghanistan’s economy but China has some security concerns that will take precedence. Richard Weitz provides the details in “Will China save the Afghan economy?”, Middle East Institute, November 1, 2021.

Life Is Tough for Afghan Middle Class. Academics, professionals, and others are resorting to menial jobs to survive. With economy crashing and unpaid government salaries some members of Afghan society are adjusting to hard times. “From academic to labourer: Afghan economic crisis spares few”, Reuters, November 1, 2021.

Video – Selling 9-Year Old Daughter to Survive. Some desperate measures are being taken by the very poor of Afghanistan. Food is short and the economy has faltered. Some families are forced to sell their young daughters just to feed themselves. “CNN witnesses 9-year old being sold for marriage to 55-year-old man”, CNN World, November 1, 2021.

Foreign Currency Banned. The Taliban say those who continue to trade using foreign currency will face legal action. This will cause further disruption to an economy that has collapsed. All transactions by traders, shopkeepers, citizens, and others are to be in afghanis. “Taliban bans the use of foreign currency across Afghanistan”, Aljazeera, November 2, 2021.

U.S. Sanctions on the Taliban. The United States has imposed sanctions on the Taliban since 1999 – with a dramatic increase in scope after the 2001 terrorist attack by al Qaeda. The current regime of sanctions are now outdated since the Taliban have come to power – and the U.S. government has yet to create a country-specific sanctions program on Afghanistan. A new publication provides an overview of the U.S. sanctions landscape in Afghanistan both before and after the 9// terrorist attacks. It also provides considerations for policymakers on future policy toward a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. “Sanctions by the Numbers: Spotlight on Afghanistan”, Center for a New American Security, by Jason Bartlett, October 28, 2021.

Power Shortages. Among the many problems Afghans are faced with in Afghanistan are the constant disruptions of electrical power. Things will likely get worse this coming winter. Although the Taliban was continuously interrupting power supplies to Kabul over the past two decades the amount coming into the capital city was enough to keep the economy functioning. However, the power is overwhelming provided by neighboring countries and the power bill is not getting paid. “Afghanistan relies on foreign power suppliers, but the Taliban haven’t paid the bills”, NPR, November 1, 2021.

Commentary, Analysis, and Misc

Audit – Funding of ANDSF Not Monitored. The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) published a report in October 2021 that was critical of the oversight provided by the DoD, DoS, USAID, and other agencies responsible for providing funds to the Afghan government and Afghan National Defense and Security Forces. “US ‘rarely’ enforced conditions on Afghanistan aid, audit says”, Stars and Stripes, October 30, 2021.

Erasing History. The Department of Defense has deleted more than 130,000 Afghanistan war photos from an online photo repository. The photos of U.S. troops in Afghanistan in the public domain and published to the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service or DVIDS. It was established for use by the press and the U.S. public. The Pentagon press secretary said that the photos were removed to protect Afghans who were depicted; however, many of the photos were not of Afghans but of U.S. troops. (Task & Purpose, Nov 1, 2021).

Afghanistan’s UN Seat. The fall of the Ghani regime has now posed a dilemma for the United Nations. Should it seat a representative provided by the newly-formed Taliban government? Or should it continue to recognize the current occupant of Afghanistan’s UN seat. The question of recognizing the Taliban is a test of the integrity of international law. “Should the Taliban Be Given Afghanistan’s UN Seat?”, The Diplomat, November 2, 2021.

Defeat in Afghanistan. Barnett Rubin, a former senior advisor to the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, has provided a short history of the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan and points out the many errors made by the U.S. in that conflict. “The Once and Future Defeat in Afghanistan“, War on the Rocks, November 1, 2021.


Photo: Area photo of Dona Ana Range Complex facilities near Fort Bliss, New Mexico. This location is one of the eight locations established by the Department of Defense to temporarily house and process the many thousands of Afghans evacuated from Afghanistan in August 2021. (U.S. Army photo by: Spc. Elijah Ingram/24TPASE)