Topics: News about Afghanistan, evacuation of AMCITs, LPRs, and at-risk Afghans, evac flights, SIV update, Torkham border crossing, Greece, CEAC (checking visa status), AUAF, fighting IS-KP, media shutdown, TV drama without women (is it possible?), Afghan War Commission, economy, and more.
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Holiday Break! The Afghan Report will be taking a small break to observe the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Back on Monday.
Evacuation from Afghanistan
Flights. Kam Air, Qatar Airways, and other airlines continue to operation evacuation flights almost every day. Currently the flights require all to have current passports and a visa. American citizens, LPRs, and Afghans with fully-approved Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) are filling the evac flight seats from Kabul and Mazar-i-Sharif. Most flights go to Qatar or the UAE. Occasionally, the online flight tracking applications will show flights going to destinations like Greece or Lithuania.
Special Immigrant Visas. Once it became apparent that the fall of Kabul was in the immediate future the number of SIVs submitted to the Department of State increased significantly. USCIS and DoS is still struggling with the backlog from previous years – as it had failed miserably to do their job in this regard. They are also very tardy in responding to new submissions this past summer, with reports that they have only responded to SIVs submitted up to mid-August 2021. Any SIVs that will get on flights (approved by DoS) in the immediate future will need a current Afghan passport and fully-approved SIV. Flights operating outside of the strict boundaries imposed by the DoS are a bit looser in the documentation requirements.
Relatives of U.S. Service Members in Afghanistan – Out of Luck. Of the 60 cases where U.S. service members have family in Afghanistan and requested evacuation on their behalf, not one is eligible for parole status. The requests from service members came in after the DoD and DoS asked for information from the services. Once again the US government sticks to its very strict rules on who can get into the United States from Afghanistan. On the other hand, thousands are pouring across the southern US border each month. “No Afghan family members of U.S. troops have been eligible to come to the U.S. Here’s why”, Military Times, November 23, 2021.
Passage to Pakistan by Torkham Border Crossing. The plight of Afghans attempting to cross the border into Pakistan is clearly depicted in this essay. There are days of uncertainty and discomfort required to cross the border. Read about it in “Letter from Kabul: The Brutal Business of a Border Crossing”, New Lines Magazine, November 22, 2021.
Over the Pak Border – But the Troubles Persist. The Taliban takeover of government has pushed many Afghans who were associated with NATO military forces or members of the previous regime to escape into Pakistan. If they navigate the perilous journey across the border then they face a new set of unsettling circumstances. “Afghan Refugees Get Cold Welcome in Pakistan”, by Betsy Joles, Foreign Policy, November 22, 2021.
Arriving in Pakistan? Some of the Afghans who manage to get across the border into the neighboring country to the east are being tracked by UNHCR. Read their latest report dated 15 Nov 2012, PDF, one page.
Countries Stepping Up for Afghan Evacuees. Albania, Chile, and Uganda are among the nations temporarily sheltering evacuees seeking to come to America. “Afghan Evacuees, Scattered Around the World, Could Wait Years for Change to Reach U.S.“, by Jessica Donati, The Wall Street Journal, November 21, 2021.
“One of the largest groups of evacuees outside of the U.S. military system is spread across Albania, Georgia and North Macedonia. They were brought there by the U.S.-government-funded National Endowment for Democracy, a foundation that aims to support the spread of democratic ideas.”WSJ, Nov 21, 2021
100 Afghans Reach Greece. Afghans who were at-risk in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan have reached safety in Greece. Among the 119 evacuees were a former minister of borders and tribal affairs, a lawyer who prosecuted Taliban fighters, a female judge, and women’s rights activist. The evacuees will have temporary status in Greece until they can be accepted by other countries such as the United States or Canada. “Flight carrying over 100 evacuated Afghans reaches Greece”, ABC News, November 22, 2021.
Crossing Borders into Europe. The European nations are not that excited about receiving more economic refugees. Their social welfare systems (especially northern European countries) are a huge attraction for economic refugees seeking a better life. The recent ascent of the Taliban has given to increased numbers of Afghans heading to Europe; but getting to Germany, France, the UK, or the Scandinavian countries means having to cross some borders that are difficult to negotiate. “Afghan referee sees no fair play in EU border policies”, Associated Press News, November 23, 2021.
CEAC and Checking Visa Status. The Consular Electronic Applications Center (CEAC) allows foreigners and their legal representatives to check the status of their U.S visa applications online. The Upcounsel lawyers have posted a handy guide on this process. The webpage explains a CEAC visa status, answers FAQs, and outlines steps to check CEAC visa status. https://www.upcounsel.com/ceac-visa-status
UAE to Run Kabul Airport? This sets up a little bit of competition between two Gulf region rivals. Currently Qatari special forces are providing security at the airport. “UAE holds talks with Taliban to run Kabul airport”, Reuters, November 24, 2021.
AUAF – Broken Promises. Jason Criss Howk writes on the benefits that the American University of Afghanistan provided to the Afghan nation. He also says we should help the alumni of the university in their attempt to leave Afghanistan. “American University in Afghanistan: Broken Dreams and Promises”, Clearance Jobs, November 18, 2021.
Afghan Evacuee Resettlement
Retired Green Beret Greets Afghan Friend at Airport. Matt Coburn met an Afghan family at the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania airport recently. Read more in “Where we belong: Bond forged in war brings Afghan commando’s family to Pennsylvania”, USA Today, November 21, 2021.
Sec Blinken Meets with Resettlement Agencies. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with executives from domestic refugee resettlement agencies in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, November 23, 2021. Read almost nothing of substance about the meeting is this press release by Ned Price of the State Department. (DoS, Nov 23, 2021).
Camp Atterbury – Afghans Are Moving On. More than 7,000 Afghans arrived at Camp Atterbury, Indiana over the past few months. Now they are making their way to new homes across the United States – with 3,100 already resettled. It is unlikely that the base will take in any more evacuees and the camp hopes to have all the Afghans resettled by the holidays. “About half of Camp Atterbury’s Afghan refugees have left to settle into new lives”, The Indianapolis Star, November 23, 2021. Another news report is less optimistic on the onward movement of Afghans from Camp Atterbury. “Timeline extended for resettling Afghan refugees in Indiana”, Associated Press, November 23, 2021.
Winter Coats for All at McCoy. Afghan refugees are settling into a long stay at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin. This military post can get very cold in the winter; however, the Afghan guests now have enough winter clothing to fend off the cold weather. “At Fort McCoy, Team Rubicon set to withdraw; officials say all Afghan refugees now have ‘winter layers'”, Channel 3000, November 18, 2021.
Life Under the Taliban
Fighting ISIS-K. The Taliban regime has sent hundreds more of its fighters to confront the growing Islamic State – Khorasan Province insurgency in eastern Afghanistan. In the past month more than 1,300 Taliban fighters converged on Nangarhar province. The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan has resulted in the swelling of the IS-KP ranks and an uptick in its offensive operations. There are an estimated 2,000 to 3,500 IS-KP members in Afghanistan. “Taliban sends hundreds of fighters to eastern Afghanistan to wage war against Islamic State”, The Washington Post, November 22, 2021. Bill Roggio, of the Long War Journal, says that in the fight against the Islamic State, the Taliban holds a major advantage. The Taliban has a distinct edge, to include state sponsors, terrorist allies, regional support, superiority in weapons and men, and control of all of Afghanistan. (FDD, Nov 23, 2021).
Taliban Not a Partner in Fight Against Terrorists. U.S. Special Operations Command’s General Richard Clarke said that the tracking for terrorists in Afghanistan has become more difficult. He discounted speculation that the Taliban regime could be a partner of the U.S. in the neutralizing of terrorist organizations in Afghanistan that might threaten the U.S. homeland or interests overseas. “The Taliban is No ‘Partner,’ Says Top US Special Ops Commander”, by Patrick Tucker, Defense One, November 20, 2021.
Ned Price on ISIS-K. At a press conference on Tuesday, November 23, 2021, the Department of State spokesman was asked about the latest United Nations report that ISIS-K is now present in all 34 provinces of Afghanistan. Ned says the US is fully committed to countering ISIS-K and ensuring that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for terrorism. He didn’t mention anything at all about the Taliban now being in charge of Afghanistan and offering sanctuary to al-Qaeda. (DoS, Nov 23, 2021). In other State Department news, U.S. envoy, Tom West, will be heading to Doha, Qatar next week to two weeks of meetings with leaders of the Taliban. They will discuss vital national interests to include counterterrorism (IS-KP, but probably not al Qaeda), safe passage for US citizens, humanitarian assistance, and other topics. (Reuters, Nov 23, 2021).
Media Shutdown. Journalists have been threatened and beaten, women’s rights severely limited, and new religious guidelines issued by the Taliban. “Afghanistan: Taliban Crackdown on Media Worsens”, Human Rights Watch, November 22, 2021.
Afghan TV Dramas? No Women. According to a recent Taliban directive all dramas and soap operas will no longer feature women. Ummm, . . . how do you have a TV drama or soap opera without women? I guess Afghanistan will find out shortly. “Women banned from Afghan television dramas under new Taliban media rules”, CNN News, November 22, 2021.
Taliban – Using Girls Education as a Strategy. TRT World Correspondent Soraya Lennie talks about the latest developments in Afghanistan on the rights of girls and women to return to school. She presents the argument that the Taliban always intended to relax its policy on girls education in Afghanistan but decided to do it slowly. This would focus international attention on this issue, reducing the glare on other issues. It would also show that over the course of a few months that the Taliban were moderating their stance on women’s and girl’s education – with hopes that the international community would relax its stance on funding the Taliban regime. “The Taliban give back some rights to women, but it may be all a political strategy”, National Public Radio (NPR), November 21, 2021.
Freedom Lost. Life has changed for the worst for women and girls in Afghanistan. For many, it has turned into a nightmare. “I Lost My Freedom: Afghan women speak out against the Taliban”, by Mike Brest, Washington Examiner, November 22, 2021.
Afghan SOF. The Taliban continue to hunt down and execute former members of the elite units of the Afghan National Army and of the Ministry of Interior. They are in hiding, away from their homes, sometimes separated from the families, and are running out of food, money, . . . and time. Meanwhile, the US government appears to be doing next to nothing to help these Afghan allies out of Afghanistan.
Humanitarian Assistance and Economy
Red Cross Speaks Up on Humanitarian Crisis. A senior Red Cross official is furious that sanctions and donor freezes are cutting off basic services in Afghanistan. He calls on donors to find creative ways to prevent a massive humanitarian crisis. The salaries for many of the medical clinics and hospitals in Afghanistan used to be paid for by international donors . . . but that money has dried up since the Taliban takeover in mid-August. “Red Cross ‘livid’ that sanctions, frozen aid stoking Afghan crisis”, Reuters, November 22, 2021.
Afghanistan’s Middle Class Facing Hard Times. Afghan families who had been enjoying the benefits of the huge amounts of financial support to Afghanistan by the international community over the past 20 years have seen their economic prospects plummet. The economy has contracted and many families are now destitute. “Jobs lost, middle class Afghans slide into poverty, hunger”, AP News, November 22, 2021.
Child Marriage or Starvation. Some Afghan families are facing very difficult decisions. The selling of young girls off to older men has increased in tandem with the soaring poverty since the Taliban took control of Kabul and the rest of Afghanistan. Baby girls are now being promised for future marriage in exchange for dowries. “Afghans ‘marry off’ baby girls for dowries as starvation looms“, Reuters, November 23, 2021.
Commentary and Analysis
Afghan War Commission. A bill aims to create a non-partisan independent commission to assess the Afghanistan war and experiences learned during the past 20 years the US has been in Afghanistan. It is called the “Afghanistan War Commission Act of 2021”. Sounds like a useful endeavor . . . or perhaps Congress could just read the numerous reports by the Special Inspector General for the Reconstruction of Afghanistan (SIGAR). This agency, established by Congress, has very accurately and with great detail chronicled the failures of successive U.S. administration efforts in Afghanistan. “US House Members Introduce Bill for Afghan War Commission”, Tolo News, November 23, 2021.
Over the Horizon Strikes. The deaths of ten Afghan civilians from a U.S. drone strike last August 2021 during the height of the Kabul non-combatant evacuation operation conducted by U.S. and other international military forces has caused some deep reflection on the use of unmanned aircraft to strike terrorists. Two active duty officers who had responsibilities for counterterrorism in Afghanistan argue that the U.S. should continue these type of operations but raise the standards for strikes to “near certainty” to avoid the likelihood of deadly mistakes. “Finding the Appropriate Balance of Risk in Over-the-Horizon Strikes”, Lawfare Blog, November 21, 2021.
Reports and Videos
Video – Electricity Problems in Ghor Province. Diesel power generators usually provide electricity to the population and businesses in this central region of Afghanistan. But since the Taliban have taken over the lights are out. “The Taliban Takes Power and the Lights Go Off in Central Afghanistan”, Radio Free Europe, November 23, 2021, 2 minutes.
Report on Afghanistan’s Financial System. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has published a three-page document entitled Policy Brief: The Afghan Banking and Financial System Situation Report, November 22, 2021, PDF.
Photo: U.S. service members help Afghan guests arriving at the Philadelphia International Airport as they continue through the resettlement process. October 2021, DoD photo.