Topics: News about Afghanistan, evacuation of AMCITs, LPRs, and at-risk Afghans, the path to Iran (and back), evacuations – a slow trickle, Kabul passport office, Taliban wants to be friends, AAF airframes arrive in US, abandoned CIA base, sending money to Afghanistan, meth – a good income for Afghan farmers, protecting human rights, . . . . . and more.
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Evacuation from Afghanistan
Path to Iran – Leads Back to Afghanistan. Thousands of Afghans flee Afghanistan daily for safety in Iran; only to find themselves back where they started. A record number of expulsions on the Iranian-Afghan border take place as the Iranian authorities police up illegal border crossers. “Iran Steps Up Deportations of Afghans Trying to Flee Taliban and Poverty”, The Wall Street Journal, December 12, 2021. (subscription)
Evacuations – A Slow Trickle. Karen DeYoung and Missy Ryan collaborate on an almost accurate report about the evac process of Afghans from Afghanistan. They report that many of the thousands of Afghans who left Afghanistan during the Kabul NEO during August have received Humanitarian Parole and are resettling in the United States. However, they point out that there are many more thousands of at-risk Afghans who are left out in the cold. The authors provide details on the many constraints that limit the Department of State in the evacuation effort and the self-imposed restrictions by the Department of State that determine the fate of hopeless Afghans still waiting for a way out of Afghanistan. “As evacuations from Afghanistan slow to a trickle, some’ at risk’ allies may face long road to the United States”, The Washington Post, December 12, 2021. (subscription)
Passports – Biometric Equipment Problems Persist. While some of the provincial passport offices appear to be operating the Kabul office keeps having ‘problems’. Apparently the biometric equipment continues to ‘break down’. Earlier news reports indicate that the technicians who used to maintain and repair the equipment have left the country or are no longer available. The Kabul passport office has been closed for weeks. About 2,000 to 3,000 passports are being processed a day in the provinces where passport offices are open. In addition, the passport acquisition process is undergoing changes. Commission agents, called ‘Commissonkar’, ensure a swift process for applications . . . for a fee. Some are reputable, some steal your money and documents. “Kabul passport office head urges patience as anxious crowds keep gathering”, Reuters, December 13, 2021.
DoS Update on Relocation and Resettlement. Since August 31, the U.S. has directly assisted 479 American Citizens and 450 lawful permanent residents (in addition to their immediate families) to depart Afghanistan and relocate to the United States. In addition, the State Department continues to relocate 2,200 Afghan, many of whom are special immigrant visa holders as well as SIV applicants who have Chief of Mission (COM) approval. The State Department has issued more than 8,200 SIVs since January 20. As of mid-December the U.S. has taken in more than 74,000 Afghans through Operation Allies Welcome. Currently there are 3,000 individuals who are at overseas transit locations who will arrive in the next few weeks. Currently there are about 31,000 Afghans on seven U.S. military bases across the country. “Afghanistan Relocation and Resettlement Update”, U.S. Department of State, December 13, 2021.
Living Under the Taliban
Taliban: We Can Be Friends. The Taliban government, according to Afghan Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, wants good relations with all countries and has no issue with the United States. He also says the Taliban would like almost $9 billion in funds held in U.S. banks. “Taliban Seek Ties with US, Other Ex-Foes”, Military.com, December 13, 2021.
A New Afghan Army. A new committee consisting of 20 members has been tasked to work on a plan to re-vamp the Afghan army. The intent is to create an army that is non-political. “IEA appoints committee to review the Afghan army”, Ariana News, December 11, 2021.
The Women Left Behind. Afghan women who managed to get evacuated to Albania have mounted an effort to draw attention to the environment of severe gender-based discrimination that women suffer under with the Taliban regime. Women have lost their jobs and rights. Teenage girls no longer attend classes in school. “Afghans seek help for women back home before it’s too late”, ABC News, December 10, 2021.
Some Interesting Stuff
Afghan Aircraft – Arriving in US. More Russian Mi-17 Hips and MD 530F Little Birds have arrived at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. This is a ‘boneyard’ for aircraft no longer in use. The Afghan aircraft may have come from Uzbekistan or Tajikistan – countries where Afghan pilots and their families fled to in mid-August 2021. Some of the aircraft may have been undergoing maintenance in other countries at the time the Afghan government fell. It appears that 24 helicopters have made their way through various means to the United States. Some of these aircraft could end up in the inventory of the Central Intelligence Agency’s special paramilitary organizations or with the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). “Dozens of Afghan Helicopters Have Now Arrived at the U.S. Air Force’s Boneyard”, The Drive War Zone, December 10, 2021.
US Thanks Uzbekistan. The U.S. Department of State Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Assistant Secretary Donald Lu met with senior Uzbek officials in Tashkent on December 13, 2021. During the meeting Lu thanked Uzbekistan for the services made available to humanitarian actors at the Termez Cargo Center and the establishment of a regional logistics hub in Termez under the auspices of the United Nations to provide urgent humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan. (DoS Media Note, Dec 13, 2021).
Shkin – A CIA Base No Longer In Use. Franz Marty, a freelance journalist who has been working in Afghanistan since 2014, provides an interesting story on an abandoned base on the Pakistan border that was once used by the Central Intelligence Agency to monitor al-Qaeda fighters on both sides of the Af-Pak border. “Visit to a Lost CIA Base in Afghanistan”, Spy Talk, December 8, 2021. (subscription)
Humanitarian Assistance and Economy
Sending Private Money to Afghanistan. The United States has formalized guidance allowing personal remittances to flow to Afghanistan. This provides protection to senders and financial institutions from U.S. sanctions on the Taliban. “U.S. formalizes guidance allowing personal remittances to flow to Afghanistan”, Reuters, December 10, 2021. Read the official notice from the U.S. Department of Treasury (PDF, 2 pages, Dec 10, 2021).
Meth – Increasingly a Means of Income. Export quality methamphetamine is being trafficked to foreign countries and providing impoverished farmers with a means of supporting their families. It is also providing a low cost drug for the many addicted Afghans in Afghanistan. The Taliban have officially banned the drug; however, bazaars openly display the drug for sale. “Meth and heroin fuel Afghanistan drugs boom”, BBC News, December 12, 2021. In a different news report we learn that the Ministry of Interior has assigned officials to counter the drug trade at the provincial level. “MoI Assigns Counter-Narcotics Officials in Provinces”, Tolo News, December 11, 2021.
Exports Increase to Central Asia. The commerce going northward across the Hairatan port border crossing has increased over the past month, signaling at least one positive trend in an economy tanking quickly. Border officials are processing up to 600 vehicles a day carrying good north into Uzbekistan. Some of the good heading north are pine nuts, almonds, raisins, and potatoes. “Hairatan customs officials record increase in export volumes”, Ariana News, December 13, 2021.
Commentary, Analysis, and Opinion
The Wrong Kind of Aid to Afghanistan. The Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police were outfitted with billions of dollars of equipment – vehicles, computers, aircraft, and much more. Most of it was too complicated for a largely illiterate population to operate and maintain. In addition, the maintenance and fielding costs were prohibited. This was a result of building an army that resembled that of the United States military. A huge error. Matthew Cancian, a former Marine officer who served in Afghanistan, provides the details in “Stop Undermining Partners with Gifts”, War on the Rocks, December 13, 2021.
Providing Aid and Protecting Human Rights. Christopher Fitzgerald is associated with the Afghan-based NGO, Enabled Children Initiative. He says that the international community has an obligation to help advance the cause of human rights in Afghanistan and can do this with ties to the providing of humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan. “Assessing the International Community’s Obligation to Protect the Human Rights of Afghanistan”, E-International Relations, December 5, 2021.
Alarm Bells are Sounding. A number of prominent former senior officials from the Department of State and retired four-star generals, all with extensive Afghanistan experience, have joined together to author a letter that both warns of the impending collapse of Afghanistan and provides reasons why the United States should assist that country. “Afghanistan is about to collapse. Here’s what the US must do about it”, Atlantic Council, December 13, 2021.
Photo: An Afghan family walks toward a medical screening station while in-processing at Camp Buehring, Kuwait. Although the operation was State Department-led, the Department of Defense had been tasked with assisting with providing transportation, security, logistics and medical support for Special Immigration Visa holders to various locations, where they went through a rigorous paperwork process prior to arriving at their final destination. (U.S. Army Photo by 1st Lt. James Mason).