Topics: News about Afghanistan, evacuation of AMCITs, LPRs, and at-risk Afghans, Qatar representing U.S., Afghan pilots, DoS ineptitude, international flights resume, expensive evacuations, resettlement, passport offices, Qatar representation, HKIA orphanage, attacks on Shiites, brain drain, Blinken lies, ‘Teacher Hamid’, . . . . . and more.
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Evacuation from Afghanistan
Qatar to Represent US in Afghanistan and Continue Hosting Evacuees. The United States and Qatar have agreed that the diplomatic interests of the United States in Afghanistan will be represented by Qatar. This will give Qatar the role of a “protecting power” for U.S. interests and to facilitate communication between the U.S. and the Taliban government. The Qataris will be able to offer limited consular services to U.S. citizens in Afghanistan. Additional consular assistance may include accepting passport applications, providing information, and more. The Qatar representatives for the U.S. will operate out of the former U.S. embassy in Kabul. In a separate agreement, Qatar will continue to temporarily host up to 8,000 Afghan evacuees. They will be housed at Camp As Sayliyah and al-Udeid Air Base. “Qatar to act as U.S. diplomatic representative in Afghanistan”, Reuters, November 12, 2021.
American Stuck in Afghanistan Blames U.S. Department of State for Ineptitude. A naturalized American citizen born in Afghanistan returned to Kabul to bring his wife back to America before the Taliban took over the country. But he and his wife could not get on an evacuation plane leaving Kabul during the August non-combatant evacuation operation. He tried unsuccessfully to leave for sixty more days – and was repeatedly ignored by the State Department when attempting to get on the evacuation flights leaving out of Kabul and Mazar-i-Sharif during the months of September and October. Finally, the efforts of a couple of volunteer veteran Afghan evac organizations and his Congressman proved to yield results. He and his wife are now in Qatar awaiting movement to the United States. The American, who served alongside U.S. military forces before first coming to America and becoming a citizen, does not have a kind word for the State Department. “American returns to Afghanistan to save wife, escapes 2 months after US forces left”, ABC News, November 10, 2021.
AMCITs Can Leave Afghanistan If They Want To – Or So Says Blinken. Once again the Department of State is painting a rosy picture of a desperate situation for many American citizens, lawful permanent residents, and at-risk Afghans. Secretary of State Blinken continues to cloak the dismal failure of the State Department’s evacuation process with an upbeat message. However, there are over 50 veteran organizations involved in the evacuation effort that know the truth. “Blinken says all US citizens in Afghanistan who currently want to leave have an ‘opportunity to do so'”, CNN News, November 12, 2021.
Ariana Afghan Airlines – Flights to Islamabad. One of Afghanistan’s airlines will begin regular twice-weekly services from Kabul to Islamabad. Kam Air has been flying five times a week between the two cities. Ariana also began regular flights to the United Arab Emirates as well. International traffic is gradually reopening at the Kabul airport. Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) suspended its service to Kabul in October citing interference from Taliban authorities. “Afghanistan’s Ariana Airlines begins flights from Kabul to Islamabad”, Dawn, November 11, 2021.
More Afghan Passport Offices to Open. The Taliban has announced that it is opening 7 satellite passport offices this week to clear the backlog of passport applications. Once the backlog has been dealt with they intend to begin accepting new applications.
Evacuation – A Difficult and Expensive Task for Afghans. While Secretary of State Antony Blinken continues to lie about the effectiveness of the evacuation process for American citizens and lawful permanent residents, Afghans find it extremely difficult to escape Afghanistan. Many of these Afghans served as interpreters or support for U.S. military units during the 20-year long United States involvement in the Afghan conflict. Now that the Taliban have taken over the country they are hunting down, torturing, and killing some of these at-risk Afghans. The increased sense of desperation and limited space on evacuation routes have made it expensive for Afghans to leave – many private operations are demanding exorbitant amounts of money to transport people outside the country by different means and routes. “Some Afghans trying to flee country face exorbitant costs as Blinken touts success of efforts to help Americans”, CNN News, November 13, 2021.
Plight of Afghan Pilots in Tajikistan. For three months over 150 Afghan pilots and their families were stuck in Tajikistan – hoping to make their way to the United States after escaping Afghanistan in mid-August. The delay in moving the pilots from Tajikistan to a ‘lily pad’ and then on the U.S. attracted the concern of members of Congress. The pilots were flown to the United Arab Emirates last week . . . finally; and the Tajiks say the U.S. Department of State was responsible for the delay. The pilots are now in a hotel in the United Arab Emirates. “Tajiks blame U.S. bureaucracy for delay evacuating Afghan pilots”, Reuters, November 10, 2021. Read more in “Relief for Afghan pilots flown out of Tajikistan by US”, ABC News, November 14, 2021.
The Make-Shift Orphanage on HKIA. Hundreds of children of all ages without parents made it onto the Kabul airport during the August 2021 non-combatant evacuation operation. Some found their way to a hastily set up reception center for unaccompanied children. One U.S. soldier was instrumental in the operation of this ‘orphanage’. (Task and Purpose, Nov 10, 2021).
Afghan Evacuee Resettlement
Iran Deporting Afghans. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimates that over one million Afghans have been sent from Iran back to Afghanistan. More than 28,000 have been sent back in the last week of October. The flow of Afghans goes both ways with several thousand Afghans are crossing into Iran daily. When policed up in Iran the Afghans are placed into detention camps before being transported to the border crossing. Many of them are sent over at the Islam Qala border crossing. Iran shares a 560-mile border with Afghanistan. “Iran deporting thousands of Afghan refugees”, Aljazeera, November 11, 2021.
Life on Resettlement Bases in U.S. Months after a hasty and chaotic evacuation from Afghanistan, Afghans are still stuck on U.S. military bases in the United States. Most are waiting for resettlement agencies to pick them for relocation into communities across the United States. Approximately 70,000 evacuees reached the United States in the past three months; 50,000 of them are still on military bases. Volunteer and refugee resettlement groups are overwhelmed and understaffed – and the U.S. government seems to lack a strategy to transition these Afghans to life in the United States. “Nearly 50,000 Afghan Refugees Are Living in Limbo On U.S. Military Bases”, The Huffington Post, November 13, 2021.
Volunteers Needed. The influx of almost 100,000 refugees this year – Afghans and others – has stressed the usual resettlement agencies. A New Haven, Connecticut resettlement agency, Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services (IRIS), is attempting to resettle hundreds of Afghan families. “A New Haven resettlement agency is rethinking how to help a wave of Afghan immigrants with volunteers”, WSHU.org, November 9, 2021.
Team Rubicon – Helping Afghans. On the day that the last American military aircraft left Afghanistan a Navy veteran and friends were outfitting two apartments for Afghan families who recently arrived in the United States. “Afghanistan war vet helps Afghan refugees resettle in US”, Associated Press, November 11, 2021.
Afghan Refugees and Public Schools. Almost half of the over 53,000 Afghan refugees on eight military bases are children. They will soon be relocated in communities across America and school districts will be burdened with integrating them into their school system – a difficult prospect given very few speak English. “Thousands of Afghan children and teenage refugees will soon be enrolled in America’s public schools”, The Washington Post, November 11, 2021.
Taliban and Security
Suicide Attacks on Shiite Mosques. The Islamic State – Khorasan Province (IS-KP) is attempting to drive a wedge between Sunni and Shiite citizens of Afghanistan. Over the past few months there have been several high-profile suicide bomb attacks against mosques. In just October IS-KP has killed over 90 people in these mosques attacks and injured hundreds of others. The Taliban regime says it will protect the Shia population but many people have their doubts. “The String of ISIS Attacks That Killed Three Generations of One Afghan Family”, The New York Times, November 14, 2021.
Sharia Law. The Taliban have established a military tribunal to enforce Sharia law in Afghanistan. The formation of the tribunal has been done for the enforcement of the sharia system, divine decrees, and social reform. (The Times of India, Nov 13, 2021).
Justice Delayed. While it was an insurgent organization the Taliban conducted its own justice and court system in the rural areas that it controlled. Many Afghans turned to the Taliban to settle disputes as they were known to be quick and fair when compared to the formal justice system of the corrupt Afghan government. But now the Taliban are struggling to establish their justice system across the nation. “Justice delayed as Taliban build their legal system in Afghanistan”, The Hindu, November 14, 2021.
A Smaller Afghan Military. The Taliban announced that they will have a smaller military than the previous regime. “Taliban FM: Afghanistan Needs Smaller Military”, Voice of America, November 12, 2021.
On Parade. In other news, the Taliban held a military parade in Kabul on Sunday, November 14th, featuring US-made armored vehicles and Russian helicopters. According to one source on social media there are two Mi-17s that are flying – which doesn’t necessarily mean operational. Neither has a full crew. (Khaama Press, Nov 15, 2021).
Humanitarian Assistance, Society, and Economy
Brain Drain. Afghanistan’s state institutions face the risk of collapse after a mass exodus of educated professionals under the Taliban. Teachers, civil servants, technocrats, engineers, and others escaped to other countries as the Taliban moved toward Kabul. “The Graveyard of Dreams and Hopes: Inside Afghanistan’s Brain Drain”, VIce.com, November 12, 2021.
Electricity from Iran. Since the Taliban took over the country in mid-August the electrical bill to other countries to the north of Afghanistan has not been paid. Over $90 million is owed to Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan. This week officials signed a new deal with Iran that might provide some relief. (Business Insider, Nov 13, 2021).
Management of Kabul Airport. After August 31st, very few aircraft have flown from Kabul airport. In September limited domestic service resumed and some charter flights began ferrying foreign nationals and some Afghans from Kabul and Mazar-i-Sharif airports. In October Pakistan International Airlines and a few of the Afghan carriers began operating a limited number of flights from Kabul to international airports. Although Turkey and Qatar are offering some assistance in running the airport in Kabul it would appear that the return of normal international air travel will be a long process. “Secure Management of Kabul Airport Remains Open Question”, AIN Online, November 13, 2021.
Commentary, Analysis, and Opinion
A Botched Withdrawal. For most U.S. veterans of the Afghan conflict the botched and chaotic withdrawal of the United States from Afghanistan was a gut punch. A volunteer organization of retired Special Operations Forces veterans – along with other veterans, government contractors, and others have put their array of skills and operational expertise to the task of rescuing trapped Americans and Afghans who are ‘at-risk’. They are doing what the Department of State should be doing. Read more in “How Our Afghanistan Veterans Feel About the Afghanistan Withdrawal”, Project Exodus Relief, November 13, 2021.
Tajikistan and the Taliban. One of Afghanistan’s northern neighbors has adopted a confrontational posture towards the new regime in Kabul. The ethnic factor plays heavily in this situation. Jason Wahlang explains in “Tajikistan’s Confrontational Stand Vis-a-Vis Taliban – Analysis”, Eurasia Review, November 15, 2021.
Uncomfortable Choices. The U.S. and other nations do not want to give the Taliban regime the international legitimacy it desires. But at the same time many nations want to avoid a humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan from getting any worse than it already is – especially with the approach of winter. “Should the U.S. Want the Taliban to Succeed?”, by Yaroslav Trofimov, The Wall Street Journal, November 12, 2021.
Teacher Hamid of the Afghan Air Force. Joan Barker spent time in Afghanistan teaching English to members of Afghanistan’s Special Mission Wing (SMW). This organization was responsible for supporting the elite Afghan special operations forces taking the fight to the enemy. When not training on their aircraft – like the Mi-17 – the Afghans were learning English. Joan provides us with the story of one of her favorite students in “The Class is Yours, Hamid”, A Voice For Two Nations, November 13, 2021.
Books, Reports, Podcasts, and Videos
Report – Fulfilling America’s Promise: Options to make U.S. humanitarian protection pathways viable for at-risk Afghans. In a new report, the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP), InterAction, and Human Rights First lay out several options available to the Biden Administration to provide vulnerable Afghans viable humanitarian pathways out of Afghanistan and third countries and into the U.S. (PDF, November 2021, PDF, 13 pages).
Photo: An Afghan evacuee teacher, right, helps his student spell the word ‘mouse’ in English at the Enforcer Kids Academy hosted on Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, Oct. 15, 2021. The school is run by volunteer Afghan evacuees and Soldiers of Task Force McCoy as part of Operation Allies Welcome. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Caitlin Wilkins, 50th Public Affairs Detachment)