Afghan News Update – Mon, Nov 8, 2021

Carla McGirr interacts with Afghan girl at Quantico

Topics: News about Afghanistan, evacuation of AMCITs, LPRs, and at-risk Afghans, Afghan Evac volunteers, podcasts, videos, reports, Kabul safehouses, humanitarian parole, . . . . . and more.

Subscribe to the Afghan Report Newsletter. Arrives in your email inbox every morning five days a week. Forward to your friends!

Evacuation from Afghanistan

Out of Money – Safehouses Closing. Former interpreters for the Canadian forces are now on the run from the Taliban and have had to leave their homes. Canadian forces operated in southern Afghanistan for many years. Many of these Afghans had traveled to Kabul from the Kandahar region in an attempt to get on one of the evacuation flights flying from Kabul airport. They have been offered temporary refuge in ‘safe houses’ in Kabul and elsewhere while they await a flight out of Afghanistan or a trek across the border into a neighboring country. Some of these Afghans, some who were former interpreters for the U.S. and other NATO forces, may soon find themselves and their families out on the streets. A grassroots network of Canadian veterans have been footing the bill to rent these safehouses but they are running out of money. Some veterans blame bureaucratic inefficiencies within the Canadian government for the plight of the 1,700 interpreters that worked for Canadian forces. “Kabul safe houses for Afghans who helped Canada to close due to lack of funding”, The Canadian Press, November 4, 2021.

“John Can’t Hang Up the Phone”. There are many veteran-based organizations currently working on a volunteer basis to assist at-risk Afghans that are being hunted by the Taliban and killed when found. There have been many success stories but more failures in this massive effort on the part of volunteers who have devoted the past several months to the Afghan evac effort. It takes its toll on this ad hoc community doing a job that the Department of State and Department of Defense should be doing. Retired Green Beret Scott Mann delivers a powerful narrative in “A Veterans Day letter to President Joe Biden”, Military Times, November 4, 2021.

“This Veterans Day, we urge you and the politicians from both parties come together, across your differences, as our veterans did in this crisis to step up and assume the responsibility for helping our Afghan partners find safe passage. We will work with you every step of the way. Only then can we find a sense of peace.

Only then can John hang up the phone.”

From article by Scott Mann, retired Special Forces officer.

Germany Sends Envoy – Negotiate for Further Evacs. The relationship between the Taliban and Germany may be taking a step forward. A German envoy will make his way to Kabul in the coming weeks to negotiate for the introduction of humanitarian aid. The intent of the visit will also be to work out an agreement for the evacuation of Afghans who worked with Germans either in the German army (Bundeswehr) or other German organizations and who remain stranded in Afghanistan. (Deutsche Welle, Nov 6, 2021).

“Can you take two children?” Capt. Rodriguez, a Marine working Abbey Gate at the Kabul airport pulled two frightened children out of a sewage canal adjacent to the airport. He asked where their parents were. The oldest, a girl of ten, replied that their parents had been killed. He brought them onto the airport but couldn’t find a country to take them. The U.S. State Department said no, two other countries said no, but the Finnish ambassador gave a thumbs-up. This is one of many stories about the Marines at Abbey Gate in “Witnesses to the End”, The New York Times, November 7, 2021.

DoD Press Briefing on Aug 2021 Drone Strike. While the chaos of the Kabul non-combatant evacuation operation was at its height the United States launched a drone strike to kill an IS-KP terrorist who was planning a suicide bombing of the Kabul airport. The drone did not kill him, instead, killing ten Afghan civilians. The U.S. Air Force Inspector General conducted an investigation into the incident and briefed reporters on his findings and recommendations. The press briefing was lengthy and detailed followed by a long question and answer session. Read the transcript here. (DoD News, Nov 3, 2021)

Former Interpreter in US Fears for His Family. An Afghan living in the United States is trying to get his family out of Afghanistan – but he feels it is an impossible task. (Wisconsin Public Radio, Nov 4, 2021).

Under Threat in Afghanistan – No Way Out. An Afghan family under threat by the Taliban for its association with the previous regime is seeking assistance in leaving Afghanistan. It has discovered that it is fairly low on the priority list for the evacuation flights that are occurring on an almost daily basis. “Life in a Terrorist State for Afghans Awaiting Evacuation from Kabul”, Clearance Jobs, by Jason Criss Howk, November 4, 2021.

Four Women Die After ‘Evacuation Phone Call’. After receiving instructions to join an evacuation flight from Mazar-e-Sharif four women got into a car thinking they were heading out of Afghanistan. One was a women’s activist and another a university lecturer. (France 24, Nov 6, 2021).

DoS – The Numbers. According to the State Department, the agency has assisted in the departure of 377 U.S. citizens and 279 lawful permanent residents since August 31, 2021 from Afghanistan. (DOI 3 Nov 2021).

Afghan Passports. The Taliban regime is now issuing passports through its Kabul passport agency. Ned Price, the Ned “Hapless” Price, the State Department’s spokesperson was asked in a recent press conference if the U.S. would recognize these newly issued passports by the Taliban. His response:

“We welcome the production and provision of travel documents. We know that travel documents are an important – in many cases a prerequisite to travel, including across borders. We know this is important for – we’ve heard from the Taliban that it’s important that people be documented. We know from our partners in the region as well the priority they place on ensuring that those who transit through their countries have appropriate travel documents, and that is why we do welcome the production of passports.”

Afghan Evacuee Resettlement

USCIS Info Update. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency has updated its “Information for Afghans” website with new information (Nov 5, 2021). Topics include Afghan parolees working in the U.S., Operation Allies Welcome, Special Immigrant Visas, Asylum, finding legal services, humanitarian parole, refugees, safe havens, vaccinations, and more.

Female Doctor in Pakistan – An Afghan Refugee. Read the story of an Afghan refugee family that has overcome hardship and thrived in Pakistan. Dr. Saleema Rehman is the first female Afghan refugee doctor in Pakistan. She hopes that more Afghan women can follow in her footsteps. (Elle, Nov 4, 2021)

Search for Afghan Baby. In the chaos of the Kabul airlift in August 2021 a family became separated from their infant child after handing him to a U.S. soldier standing on a perimeter wall of the airport. But the family couldn’t gain entrance to the airport right away. Once inside the airport they searched for their child. The search continues. “Baby handed to U.S. soldiers in chaos of Afghanistan airlift still missing”, Reuters, November 5, 2021.

Taliban and Security

Girls’ Dreams Die in Afghanistan. Life has changed for women and girls in Afghanistan. Dreams and aspirations have been crushed. Hopes for a rewarding career in the arts, business, and other economic spheres have been dashed. “Afghanistan: Where Girls’ Dreams Die Young”, The Diplomat, November 5, 2021.

Taliban Leader: We Have Some Infiltrators. The Taliban movement has been facing increased attacks by Islamic State – Khorasan Province. In addition, it now has some internal security concerns. The supreme leader of the Taliban, Haibatullah Akhuzada, has warned that the my be “unknown” entities among their ranks. “Afghanistan: Taliban leader warns of infilitrators”, Aljazeera, November 4, 2021.

Left Behind by the Americans. A former commander of an Afghan guard force that protected U.S. and NATO military installations in Kabul is now on the streets selling personal effects and belongings and anything else of value that he can find. Life has changed for him since the U.S. left in August 2021. “He Kept Americans in Kabul Safe. Now He’s Street-Peddling”, The Daily Beast, November 5, 2021.

Life in Kabul. The streets of the capital city of Afghanistan may be safer now that the Taliban are no longer conducting suicide bombings – of course, the IS-KP has not stopped. Life is going on as usual for some inhabitants – while others have lost their livelihoods and many are on the run, hiding from the Taliban. But there is much to still appreciate about Kabul, read more about the culture and sights of the capital city in “A Love Letter to Kabul”, BBC News, November 6, 2021.

Humanitarian Assistance and Economy

Opinion – US Should Do Something. The chairman and CEO of Moby Group, a media company in the Middle East and elsewhere, provides his thoughts on why the United States should provide humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people. He believes it can be done without recognizing the Taliban . . . and that it should happen quickly to avert a catastrophe this coming winter. “It’s Getting Dire in Afghanistan. Biden Can’t Walk Away”, Politico, November 5, 2021.

WHO Provides Assistance. A Qatar Airways plane carried 7 metric tons of medicine and other medical supplies to Kabul on November 4th. This is the fourth flight from Doha carrying WHO supplies since August 30, 2021. (WHO, 7 Nov 2021).

Polio Vaccination Campaign. For the past three years the Taliban had barred United Nations organized vaccination teams from doing door-to-door campaigns. There were many incidents of health workers being killed for conducting polio vaccinations of Afghan children. Apparently the Taliban have become ‘enlightened’, and a polio vaccination campaign is now underway. Afghanistan and Pakistan are the only two countries in the world where polio remains endemic. “Nationwide polio eradication campaign starts in Afghanistan”, Associated Press, November 7, 2021.

Commentary, Analysis, and Opinion

Central Asian Dynamics. The Taliban victory in Afghanistan will be transforming the regional landscape around that country. With the withdrawal of the United States and other NATO countries comes the opportunity for Russia, China, Iran, and other regional nations to fill the diplomatic and political vacuum. Central Asian nations now face the prospect of desperate Afghans moving north to escape Taliban rule as well as a dire humanitarian situation. Paul Stronski, a senior fellow in the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, examines the new geopolitical environment in Central Asia in “How Taliban victory will reshape regional dynamics in Central Asia”, East Asia Forum, November 3, 2021.

Bolton on Afghanistan. John R. Bolton served as the national security advisor for President Trump and has been a long-time Washington insider and commentator on foreign policy. He notes that successive presidents either didn’t grasp or were unwilling to advocate a limited U.S. military presence to buttress Kabul’s elected government and keep the Taliban at bay. Those advocating withdrawal have assumed that the threat from al Qaeda, Islamic State, or other terrorist groups with sanctuary in Afghanistan no longer posed a threat. And if a threat emerged the terrorists could be handled with an “over the horizon” strategy. Bolton believes other “over the horizon” capability for Afghanistan is limited and our intelligence assets in Afghanistan very diminished. “How Biden’s Afghan blunder is already endangering U.S. security”, The Washington Post, November 1, 2021.

Losing Kabul and the Future of U.S. Military Operations. Garri Benjamin Hendell, a U.S. Army officer, writes about the diminished reputation of the U.S. in the international area. He says the U.S. can no longer ensure security in remote areas of the world on ‘margin’, but will need to pay with ‘cash’. “The Day After Kabul”, The Angry Staff Officer, November 2, 2021.

Khalilzad – a Key Taliban Ally. Zalmay Khalilzad is blaming Afghans for the failures that resulted from his deal with the Taliban. In February 2020 he crafted an agreement between the Trump administration and the Taliban that would facilitate a U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. The exit was less than graceful, the Afghan government collapsed, and the world witnessed the huge embarrassment of the United States failed attempt to rescue American citizens stranded in Afghanistan. Now Khalilzad is doing damage control – for the Biden administration and his reputation. Read more in “The Taliban’s Man in Washington”, by Thomas Joscelyn, The Dispatch, November 5, 2021.

Over-the-Horizon’ Explained. The Biden administration continues to cite the over the horizon capability of US counterterrorism assets and forces to target terrorist groups planning to attack American interests from sanctuaries in Afghanistan. Stacie Pettyjohn, a national security guru, explains there is just over the horizon, sea-based over the horizon, and distant over the horizon. “Over-the-Horizon Does Not Have to Mean Next Door”, Lawfare Blog, November 7, 2021.

Books and Reports

Report – Afghanistan and Drought. A country that has seen conflict for the past forty years and now has to adapt to harsh Taliban rule is also experiencing a host of other problems as well. The economy is faltering, health care systems are not working, and food is scarce. To compound these difficulties, one of the worst droughts in recent years has caused wheat crops to fall and water to be scarce. A recent report provides the details of the severity of the drought and its effect on people and agriculture in Afghanistan. It also explains how climate change is making drought more common in Afghanistan. “Global Warming and Afghanistan: Drought, hunger and thirst expected to worsen”, Afghanistan Analyst Network, November 6, 2021.

Videos, Podcasts, and Events

Video – Applying for Humanitarian Parole. This video by Catholic Charities describes how Afghans can apply for humanitarian parole. YouTube, October 15, 2021, 17 minutes.

Video – Hindsight Up Front: Implications of Afghanistan Withdrawal for the Middle East. The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Taliban’s return to power have major implications for the Middle East. A panel of experts discuss this in an event held on November 2, 2021. Wilson Center, 90 minutes.

Podcast – Repercussions of the Afghanistan Withdrawal. Tom Tugendhat, a member of Parliament, served with the military in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He has been critical of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan and the dearth of consultation with allies prior to the disastrous Afghanistan exit. Listen to an interview where he chats about Afghanistan. The Caravan Notebook, Hoover Institution, Stanford University, November 4, 2021, 20 minutes.

Webcast Event – Friday, Nov 12, 2021. An online webcast will discuss the humanitarian catastrophe in Afghanistan and the future of U.S. policy there. The panel will feature Vanda Felbab-Brown, Carter Malkasian, Shaqaiq Birashk, and others. The Future of US Policy Toward Afghanistan, Brookings Institute.


Photo: Marine Corps Maj. Carla McGirr interacts with an Afghan girl at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., Oct. 8, 2021. Photo by Marine Corps Cpl. Scott Jenkins.