Afghanistan Update – Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Toys Offered to Children in Qatar Kabul NEO

Topics: News about Afghanistan, evacuation of AMCITs, LPRs, and at-risk Afghans, repair of MeS airport, at-risk Afghans – little hope for evac, Afghan students in Iraq, refugees on base waiting for their new life, resettlement system is stressed, the new Taliban, use the leverage we have with the Taliban, . . . . . and more.

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Evacuation from Afghanistan

Afghans At-Risk – Still Waiting on Evac. There are thousands and thousands of Afghans who assisted the U.S. military for over 20-years in the long Afghan conflict. They are now considered ‘at-risk’ because the Taliban are hunting for them and they face prison, torture, or even death. The U.S. Department of State continues to maintain they are working to evacuate these at-risk Afghans – but the reality is that many may never leave Afghanistan. The State Department has only evacuated 600 people since August 31st and many of these were American citizens and lawful permanent residents not the ‘at-risk’ Afghans who have Special Immigrant Visas (either approved or pending). In fact, the majority of the flights out of Afghanistan are handled through American allies such as Qatar or nonprofit organizations that charter their own planes, create their own manifests, and work to get the flight clearances within Afghanistan and to their ultimate destinations in the Middle East or Europe. It is a slow and disjointed process and the Department of State has failed miserably – both before the fall of Kabul and now – after the end of the U.S. military’s non-combatant evacuation operation in August 2021. “When Will We Get Out? – Parents plead with California son to help them flee Afghanistan”, Los Angeles Times, November 15, 2021.

Afghan Students Now in Iraq. Students and faculty who studied or worked at the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul found they were targets of the Taliban for their association with the United States. Many were able to flee the country in August and some ended up seeking refuge in Iraq. They are now at the American University of Iraq in Sulaymaniyah – a Kurdish city in northern Iraq. Currently there are 109 Afghans studying at Sulaymaniyah with another 200 likely to arrive. “Afghan College Students Find a New Life and Safety, in Iraq”, The New York Times, November 14, 2021.

Balkh Airport – Repairs Coming Soon? Uzbekistan may soon be assisting in providing upgrades to the airport at Mazar-i-Sharif. A 30-member technical team is now there to help Afghans reconstruct the airport and repair equipment. In addition, over 80 Afghan personnel will receive training on airport operations. Currently flights are only taking place during daylight hours. “Uzbekistan Sends Team to Repair Balkh Airport”, Tolo News, November 14, 2021.

Some Numbers – Families of Military Personnel. During a recent press conference (Nov 15th) Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said that 62 U.S. service members sought assistance in getting their family members out of Afghanistan during the August 2021 NEO. 50 family members of six DoD civilians and service members were evacuated on U.S. government flights. More likely got out on privately funded NGO flights. After the military retrograde was complete on August 31st the DoD helped facilitate the relocation of another 10 family members.

Afghan Evacuee Resettlement

Awaiting a New Life. Afghan refugees living on Holloman Air Force Base are waiting for their ‘resettlement day’ – the time when a resettlement agency will transport them from the air base to their new home in an American town or city. The Afghan ‘guests’ live in a tent city that didn’t exist months ago. Since August 31st the air base has been hosting a rolling average of about 4,500 afghans. The number fluctuates as Afghans depart the base for their new homes and others arrive from the ‘lily pads’ overseas. Multiple U.S. government agencies are engaged in the processing of the refugees – beginning with reception, feeding, safety, security, cultural orientation, training, and education of each person in the ‘village’. “Afghan refugees await new life while at New Mexico air base”, by Nicole Maxwell, Military Times, November 14, 2021.

Resettlement – A Stressed System. The U.S. resettlement effort of the thousands of Afghans has put a strain on the agencies that assist in integrating refugees into American communities. “U.S. halts resettlement of new refugees, prioritizes release of Afghan refugees”, AZ Mirror, November 15, 2021.

The Numbers – Resettlement. The DoD said in a recent presser (Nov 15th) that there are currently about 46,000 Afghans on eight military installations. Over 25,000 have been relocated to new communities across the U.S.

The Taliban Regime

The New Taliban. Some of the Taliban’s youngest fighters were not even born when the 9/11 terrorist attacks took place. Many of these young fighters were raised in madrassas that shaped their minds and prepared them for jihad. The Washington Post interviewed 14 young Taliban fighters to understand their motivation and outlook on the future. “What the Taliban’s youngest fighters tell us about the future of the movement”, The Washington Post, November 12, 2021.

A Vulnerable Taliban Regime. Sarah Chayes spent a lot of time in Afghanistan and was an advisor to senior US military commanders. She lived and worked in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2011. Chayes believes that the West now has some leverage with the Taliban. With little cash reserves, a struggling economy, a humanitarian disaster in the making, no idea how to govern, borders closed to commerce, and the population struggling just to survive, Taliban rule is already tottering. And now the Taliban are facing a growing insurgency in the form of the Islamic State – Khorasan Province. There is internal division within the Taliban – not only hard-liners versus moderates, but factions fighting over lucrative ministry and government positions with which to line pockets with money. Chayes argues that Washington and its NATO allies should use their leverage to attach conditions to the provision of any financial or humanitarian assistance. Read more in “The Taliban is Vulnerable. Here’s How to Seize the Moment”, Politico Magazine, November 13, 2021.


Photo: U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Scott R. McCoy, with 445th Airlift Wing offers toys to qualified evacuees at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, Aug. 26, 2021. The Department of Defense remains committed to supporting the evacuation of American citizens, Special Immigrant Visa applicants and other at-risk individuals from Afghanistan. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. True Thao)