Topics: News about Afghanistan, evacuation of AMCITs, LPRs, and at-risk Afghans, female ANDSF in danger, DoS obstacles to entry to the U.S., stuck in Emirates Humanitarian City, life under the Taliban, struggling economy, Afghanistan in free fall, humanitarian crisis, U.S. diplomatic failure, review of Afghan withdrawal, podcast on SIV program, and more.
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Evacuation from Afghanistan
DoS Putting up Obstacles to Safe Passage. The Biden administration has begun issuing denials to Afghans seeking to emigrate to the United States through the humanitarian parole process. Immigration lawyers and advocacy groups say the government has set untenable barriers to a safe haven in the United States. “U.S. begins denying Afghan immigrants”, Axios, December 9, 2021.
Private Charter Flights from MeS? No DoS Support. Those people hoping that there will be periodic flights from Marar-i-Sharif to Qatar, the UAE, or other locations should be prepared for some disappointment. Word on social media is that the Department of State is offering no support for private organizations chartering aircraft to transport Afghans to other countries. Flights are still happening, but without DoS support (apparently). Many charter flights utilized Kam Air – an Afghan airline, but the Department of State has stopped providing assistance (‘no objection certificate’) for Kam Air charter flights for Afghan evacuees.
Taliban Stop DoS Evacuation Flights. The Taliban leadership have stopped all evacuation flights from Afghanistan to anywhere. Two flights by Qatar Airways that were to be run in conjunction with the Department of State were cancelled. Future flights are in jeopardy. It seems the Taliban would like to see Afghan airlines used for these Afghan evacuee flights – Kam Air or Ariana Afghan Airlines. “Taliban stop all evacuation flights from Afghanistan”, Pakistan Aviation, December 12, 2021.
UK Refused Entry to Key Afghan Workers. The staff that was employed to teach British values and the English language has been refused the right to come to the United Kingdom. “Nearly 100 former British Council staff remain in hiding in Afghanistan”, The Guardian, December 9, 2021. The staff had applied to to to the UK under the government’s Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) that had been set up earlier in 2021. However, the British Council’s staff applications have remained unprocessed and without response months after being submitted. Most of the staff have relocated away from their homes and are in hiding – some are adopting new identities to avoid detection by the Taliban. “Nearly 100 former British Council staff remain in hiding in Afghanistan”, The Guardian, December 9, 2021.
Former Female ANDSF In Danger. The lives or more than 6,300 Afghan women who served in the Afghan military and police are now at risk. The Taliban are finding them and persecuting them – sometimes with death. The United States and other NATO countries strongly encouraged the Afghan security institutions to allow women into the ranks of the Afghan National Police and Afghan National Army. Abdul Rahman Rahmani, a former colonel who flew with the Afghan Special Mission Wing, argues that the United States should attempt to evacuate these brave women and allow them to come to the United States. A first step would be for the U.S. government to talk to Pakistani authorities to get them to apply pressure on the Taliban to allow safe passage out of Afghanistan. Read more in “America Has a Moral Obligation to Afghanistan’s Military Women”, The National Interest, December 8, 2021.
Taliban Leader Wants to Reassure Potential Migrants. The Islamic Emirate’s supreme leader has issued a statement regarding the migration of Afghans out of the country over the past several months. “Fears, Needs of Fleeing Afghans Must Be Addressed: Akhundzada”, Tolo News, December 8, 2021.
Afghan Evacuee Resettlement
Stuck in Emirates Humanitarian City. Thousands of Afghan evacuees who are now living in the Emirates Humanitarian City are pondering their fate. It is unlikely they will be resettled into the United States as they, in the eyes of the U.S. Department of State, have no legal status that entitles them to enter the United States. The occupants of the refugee camp in Abu Dhabi fled Afghanistan on private charter aircraft organized by various private groups around the world. Most of these volunteer organizations were from the United States. There are accusations that some of these organizations ‘dumped’ the Afghans in the UAE and have now walked away from further responsibility for resettlement. The Emirates Humanitarian City or EHC is not a Department of State or U.S. military base or operation. The Department of State does maintain a small office adjacent to EHC and it will interview those in the camp who are American citizens, lawful permanent residents (LPRs), or Afghans with a Special Immigrant Visa. There are reports that hundreds of these Afghans will be moved to the U.S. run camp (referred to as a ‘lily pad’) located in Doha, Qatar for further processing and onward movement to the United States. “Afghans Stuck in Limbo at Emirates Humanitarian City Seek Answers to their U.S. Entry Status”, Rise to Peace, November 14, 2021.
EU to Take Afghan Evacuees. European Union nations have agreed to take in up to 40,000 Afghan refugees. About 25,000 Afghans deemed most at risk of persecution by the Taliban will likely find their way to Germany. In 2015 Germany took in almost 900,000 people seeking refuge – most from Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Since then, sentiment has hardened within Germany and other European nations as the influx has strained their economies, taxed their resources, and fired up cultural issues. The Netherlands will take in 3,100 Afghans, France and Spain 2,500, and 2,000 will head to Sweden. “Germany promises to take in 25,000 Afghans – EU document”, Reuters, December 10, 2021. See also “15 EU countries to take 40,000 Afghan refugees in”, The Khaama Press, December 10, 2021.
Living Under the Taliban
IS-KP Targeted by Taliban. Senior members of the Afghan government continue to stress that they are actively seeking out and killing members of the Islamic State Khorasan Province. Editor’s Note: While this is true – what is also happening is that they are ‘labeling’ former members of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) as members of IS-KP. “No place for ISIS-K terrorists in Afghanistan: Taliban”, Khaama Press, December 9, 2021.
Al-Qaida Getting ‘Slightly’ Stronger in Afghanistan. Since U.S. forces left Afghanistan in August 2021 the terrorist group has grown in size. Taliban leadership are in an internal disagreement about the future of al-Qaida in Afghanistan. The U.S. Central Command chief, General Frank McKenzie, stated in an interview that the departure of U.S. intelligence assets from Afghanistan has made it difficult to monitor al-Qaida. He said that the U.S. has about 2% of the capabilities that it used to have to look into Afghanistan. “US Commander: Al-Qaida numbers in Afghanistan up slightly”, AP News, December 10, 2021.
Exchanging a Corrupt System for a Gloomy Future. The corruption of the old regime may be gone but the outlook for what is coming next in Afghanistan’s history is unlikely to be much better. In August 2021 Vice President Dostum fled to Uzbekistan as the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif fell to the Taliban. “Inside Dostum’s Mansion: Afghanistan’s Inequality Laid Bare”, The Diplomat, December 6, 2021.
20 Years of Gains Decimated. The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan has erased many of the gains that nation experienced in the spaces of civil society engagement, education, and women’s rights. In addition, the democratic process (as corrupt as it was) is gone. “The Human Security Dimension of Governance Challenges in Afghanistan”, The Soufan Center, December 9, 2021.
Not Pashtu? Then Evicted. Taliban fighters have been accused of helping to forcibly evict more than 1,000 people in northern Afghanistan – most of them members of the Uzbek and Turkmen communities. Their homes and lands have been seized and distributed to Taliban supporters. Pashtun nomads appear to be benefiting from the property seizures. Many of the land disputes in northern Afghanistan are a legacy of the forced and voluntary resettlement of Pashtuns in the region in the 19th century when Afghanistan had a Pashtun leadership. “Taliban Accused of Forcibly Evicting Ethnic Uzbeks, Turkmen in Northern Afghanistan”, Gandhara RFE, December 9, 2021.
Struggling With an Economy in Ruins. A cook, a labourer, a migrant worker, a small trader, and a factor owner tell us what their lives look like now. “Living in a Collapsed Economy”, Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN), December 7, 2021.
Worn-Out Afghan Currency. The use of old and damaged bank notes is causing problems in business deals. The central bank is being criticized for its poor management of the Afghan currency. “Worn-Out Banknotes One More Difficulty in Afghan Economic Crisis”, Tolo News, December 11, 2021.
Out of Classroom and Onto the Streets. A women who taught school is now shining shoes to feed her family. “From Teacher to Shoe Shiner: Afghan Economic Crisis Spares Few”, Reuters, December 9, 2021.
Afghanistan in Free Fall. The Afghan economy is collapsing, Afghans lack jobs, hospitals are understaffed, salaries have been unpaid, food is short, electricity is on and then off, and winter has arrived. Afghanistan’s financial system has been collapsing since August. Peter Maurer, the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, and Martin Griffiths, a senior United Nations official, present some recommendations that will alleviate the suffering in Afghanistan over the next several months. But they argue the time to act is now. “Afghanistan is on the brink of total collapse – unless the world steps in”, The Hill, December 10, 2021.
Action Needed for Afghan Crisis. Urgent action is needed by the international community to prevent catastrophic hunger in Afghanistan. A group of humanitarian activists speak out. “Aid cut-off may kill more Afghans than war”, Aljazeera, December 4, 2021.
Caring For Refugees – Obstacles in the Way. The global community needs to address the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan in the short term and buttress the Afghan economy in the long term. The Taliban needs to reach an accommodation with the international community so funds can be released to assist the Taliban regime and its people. “Afghan Refugee Crisis and Its Impact on Sustainable Development Goals”, by Dhananjay Tripathi, Observer Research Foundation, November 25, 2021.
ARTF Funds Transfer. The Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund has decided to transfer out $280 million in ARTF funds by the end of December 2021 to UNICEF and the World Food Programme (WFP). The decision reflects the need to provide humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan. Both UNICEF and the WFP have the presence and logistics capacity to deliver health and nutrition services to the Afghan people. (World Bank, Dec 10, 2021).
Commentary, Analysis, and Opinion
Diplomatic Failure in Afghanistan. Steve Coll and Adam Entous provide details on a trove of unreleased documents that reveal a dispiriting record of misjudgment, hubris, and delusion that led to the fall of the Western-backed government. “The Secret History of the U.S. Diplomatic Failure in Afghanistan”, The New Yorker Magazine, December 10, 2021.
Review of Afghan Withdrawal. The U.S. State Department has said in an internal announcement of Friday, December 10, 2021, that it will conduct a review in the disastrous U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. The review began on December 1st and will take place over 90 days. It will cover the period from January 2020, just before the Trump administration signed the agreement that stipulated the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan to the chaotic days of August 2021 when thousands of American citizens and Afghans were evacuated by air from the Kabul airport. “State Department Launches Review of Afghan Withdrawal”, Foreign Policy, December 10, 2021. (subscription).
Books, Reports, Podcasts, and Videos
Podcast – An Update on the State of the SIV Program. Ellen Smith, the executive director of Keeping Our Promise, is interviewed in this 50-minute long podcast. The organization helps interpreters who served U.S. military forces in Afghanistan resettle in America. Other guests include two Afghan natives who served the U.S. military as an interpreters. UXXI News, December 7, 2021.