News about Afghanistan – 10 Nov 2021

Evacuees Depart NAS Sigonella

Topics: News about Afghanistan, evacuation of AMCITs, LPRs, and at-risk Afghans, Afghan pilots leave Tajikistan, Iran border crossing, trafficking routes, recommendations for DoS on evacuations, DoS stakeholders town hall, IS-KP, ghost soldiers, India conference, . . . . . and more.

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Evacuation from Afghanistan

Afghan Pilots Leave Tajikistan. Lawmakers and military veterans were finally able to force the Department of State into action to relocate the 190 plus Afghan Air Force aircrews and their families from Tajikistan. A flight took the evacuees to the United Arab Emirates (UAE). “Afghan Pilots Who Escaped Taliban Are Flown Out of Tajikistan”, The New York Times, November 9, 2021. See also a story on this topic by Reuters, November 9, 2021.

Iran Border Crossing. The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) says that as many as 5,000 Afghans are heading to Iran on a daily basis. The expectation is that even more will flee to Iran as winter approaches. All told there are at least 300,000 new refugees in Iran since the Taliban takeover. “Aid group says 4,000 – 5,000 Afghans crossing into Iran daily”, Reuters, November 10, 2021.

Trafficking Routes Out of Afghanistan. People are desperate to leave Afghanistan. A severe drought, bad economy, shortage of food, and being hunted by the Taliban are some of the major reasons for leaving. But those able to cross the border into neighboring countries don’t always go through the official border crossings. But the alternatives to the official border crossings are filled with hazards. “Afghans take perilous trafficking routes to escape hunger”, Kabul Now, November 9, 2021.

Thousands Await Evacuation. Various policy changes are needed to alleviate national security and moral harms caused by the poor performance of the US government in the evacuation of at-risk Afghans. The rapid fall of the Afghan government and bumbled withdrawal and non-combatant evacuation operation by the United States has left thousands of American citizens and green card holders stranded in Afghanistan. Even more thousands of interpreters and translators with Special Immigrant Visas in their passports or in the approval process are stranded as well – and evading capture and death by the Taliban. Members of Project Exodus Relief provide seven recommendations on how to improve the evacuation process – especially for those high-risk individuals. “Thousands of Afghan Refugees Await Rescue. Here’s What the US Needs to Do”, by Mike Edwards and Zak Kallenborn, Defense One, November 9, 2021. Listed below are the recommendations that are explained in detail in the article.

  • Accelerate approval or non-objection to evacuation flights
  • Expand lily pad availability
  • Accelerate visa processing
  • Create new SIV categories
  • Better support volunteer efforts
  • Use humanitarian parole funds to hire staff and fund flights
  • Develop mitigation plans

Afghan Evacuee Resettlement

DoS Stakeholders Town Hall. Senior officials of the White House and Department of State discuss efforts by the administration to resettle Afghan evacuees in the United States. Video is 1 hour and 30 minutes. Based on the first 15 minutes it appears to be just a bunch of talking points defending the horrible NEO circumstances and complete failure of the administration to get AMCITs, LPRs, and at-risk Afghans out of Afghanistan. (Editor’s Note: I couldn’t watch longer than 15 minutes, it was painful.)

Afghan Children – In US Without Parents. There are a large number of Afghan children who were evacuated during the hectic days of the non-combatant evacuation operation at the Kabul airport in August 2021. A variety of circumstances resulted in the unintentional separation of children and parents. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is overseeing the care of the unaccompanied minors. Some children are teenagers while others are very young. Currently there is no clear mechanism for the reunification of children in the United States with their parents still in Afghanistan or other locations. “When are my parents coming? – 1,300 Afghan children evacuated to U.S. in limbo”, Reuters, November 10, 2021.

Taliban and Security

Taliban ‘Caught in the Middle’? The country’s former intelligence chief said the Taliban are torn between placating their foot soldiers and meeting Afghans’ and the international community’s expectations. “As Afghanistan Nears Collapse, Taliban ‘Between a Rock and a Hard Place'”, Foreign Policy, November 1, 2021.

US – Taliban Talks. The United States and European countries have concerns about the reemergence of al Qaeda in Afghanistan. The terrorist group has been given sanctuary by the Taliban regime. In addition, Islamic State – Khorasan Province is also active in Afghanistan, although it is opposed by the Taliban. Special Representative for Afghanistan Ambassador Thomas West told journalists in Brussels on November 8 that the allies are depending on the Taliban to fight IS-KP. He says that the US and other countries need to have a dialogue with the Taliban about al Qaeda. “Talks with Taliban Restart as US Worries about Al-Qaeda Threat in Afghanistan”, Air Force Magazine, November 8, 2021.

IS-KP. The Spokesperson of the General Directorate of Intelligence (GDI) Khalil Hamraz said in a recent press conference that 600 ISIS-K members have been arrested and 33 killed in the past three months. He claims that the overall security situation in Afghanistan is improving. (Khaama Press, Nov 10, 2021).

Ghost Soldiers. The ex-finance minister of Afghanistan has placed the blame for the government’s fall to the Taliban on corrupt ministry and senior military officials. He says that they invented “ghost soldiers” and took payments from the Taliban. The existence of ghost soldiers has not been a new topic. Throughout the 20-year involvement of NATO and the United States in the Afghan conflict pay for Afghan soldiers has been diverted into the pockets of corrupt military leaders. Some of the monthly payments were from actual soldiers and policemen who reported for duty and some from those that never existed or did not show for work. The US and NATO could never get this vexing problem solved and it finally contributed, in part, to the collapse of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces and the fall of the Afghan government. “Afghanistan’s ghost soldiers undermined fight against Taliban – ex-official”, BBC News, November 10, 2021.

Humanitarian Assistance and Regional Topics

Food for Afghanistan. The United Nations World Food Program (WFP) and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) are predicting that over 23 million people will experience acute food insecurity this winter. “Feeding Afghanistan is a regional project”, The Hill, November 9, 2021.

India Conference. On Wednesday diplomats from several countries gathered in India for a conference on how to engage with Afghanistan’s new rulers. The Delhi Regional Security Dialogue for Afghanistan included Iran, Pakistan, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan representatives. “India hosts first regional meeting on Afghanistan since Taliban takeover”, Reuters, November 10, 2021.


Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Heather Neef, assigned to U.S. Air Force 7th Reconnaissance Squadron, waves goodbye to evacuees from Afghanistan as they prepare to board a bus before departing Naval Air Station (NAS) Sigonella, Sept. 4, 2021. NAS Sigonella is supporting the Department of State mission to facilitate the safe relocation of U.S. citizens, Special Immigration Visa recipients, and vulnerable populations from Afghanistan. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Erika L. Kugler), 2021)