Afghanistan News – Thursday, Dec 16, 2021

Afghan Receives COVID Shot

Topics: News about Afghanistan, evacuation of AMCITs, LPRs, and at-risk Afghans, passport update, Afghans arrive in Italy, India takes in refugees, EU / Qatar agreement, Fulbright Program, US housing shortage, a tanking economy, life under the Taliban, National Resistance Front, Central Asia, Fall of Kabul, and more.

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Evacuation from Afghanistan

Passport Update. The distribution of passports has resumed in Helmand and Sari-i-Pul provinces according to a Taliban government spokesman. (Pajhwok, Dec 14, 2021).

Afghans Arrive in Italy. A ‘humanitarian corridor’ has been activated that bring Afghans to Italy. A group of 12 recently arrived and more are on the way. The evacuation route was opened up with the cooperation of UNHCR, the Italian foreign office, and religious organizations. “First Afghans arrive via humanitarian corridor in Italy since August”, InfoMigrants, December 10, 2021.

India Receives Afghans. A repatriation flight carrying 94 Afghans and 10 Indian nationals landed at New Delhi this past Friday, December 10, 2021. Many of them were Sikhs and Hindus. “104 land in Delhi from Afghanistan via special flight”, The Times of India, December 11, 2021.

EU and Qatar Reach Agreement on Afghan Evacuation. Thus far the Gulf state has significantly assisted in the conduct of the largest evacuation airlift of people in history following the Taliban takeover of Kabul in August. The efforts of Qatar in the evacuation of at-risk Afghans has continued since then. Qatar and the European Union have agreed to continue to work together in evacuating people from Afghanistan during a monthly meeting of EU Foreign Ministers in Brussels. One of the EU nations, Germany, is taking a leading role in accepting Afghan refugees. “Qatar, EU agree to evacuate more at-risk people from Afghanistan”, Doha News, December 13, 2021.

UK’s Botched Evac. Inquiries are being made into the alleged British mismanagement of its Afghanistan exit – accusations are being made about ‘people left to die at the hands of the Taliban’. “Fresh evidence on UK’s botched Afghan withdrawal backs whistleblower’s story”, The Guardian, December 11, 2021.

DoS’s Fulbright Program and Afghan Semi-Finalists. First it was COVID that interrupted the plans of Afghans students who were to study in the United States. Then it was the takeover of the government by the Taliban and the chaos that ensued. Afghan semi-finalists for the Department of State’s Fulbright Program are hoping for some good news soon. At the moment more than 100 semi-finalists are left in limbo due to the unofficial pause in the program. The Fulbright Program offers grants to qualified Afghan graduate students to study at the graduate level in the U.S. “Afghan Fulbright semi-finalists anxiously await State Dept. update on program”, ABC News, December 14, 2021.

Afghan Evac Coalition Met With NSC. Representatives of a coalition of organizations working to evacuate at-risk Afghans from Afghanistan met with top U.S. national security officials. The Afghan Evac Coalition expressed an interest for additional resources and continued collaboration with the State Department, Department of Defense, and the National Security Council to help get at-risk Afghans out of Afghanistan. “Afghan aid groups meet with NatSec staff”, Axios, December 15, 2021.

DoS and the Afghan Allies Left Behind. Callie Patteson writes about the Afghans who are at-risk because they assisted the U.S. military in Afghanistan. She also details the efforts of Task Force Argo and No One Left Behind – two private volunteer groups that are continuing to evacuate Afghans from Afghanistan despite road blocks set up by the Department of State. “Thousands of Afghan allies, families still trapped under Taliban control”, New York Post, December 14, 2021.

DoS Interference in Private Charter Flights. While the Department of State is organizing flights from Kabul to Doha for at-risk Afghans it seems to be undermining efforts of private volunteer groups to use charter flights to evacuate Afghans. For many weeks following the August 31 departure of U.S. military forces from the Kabul airport the private charter flights were the only way out – usually through Mazar-i-Sharif. But now that the Department of State has finally cracked the code on how to charter an aircraft they have put the squeeze on the private charter flights by volunteer evac organizations. “State Dept. interference grounded Afghanistan rescue flights, group says”, by Callie Patteson, The New York Post, December 15, 2021.

How Many AMCITs Remain? DoS Doesn’t Really Know. Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, was defending the Biden administrations track record in bringing American citizens out of Afghanistan during a recent press conference. “White House pressed on higher number of Americans still in Afghanistan”, by Haisten Willis, The Washington Examiner, December 14, 2021.

Afghan Evacuee Resettlement

Afghan Orchestra Now in Portugal. Almost 300 members of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM), including students, staff, and relatives are now in Portugal. Portugal has granted them asylum. The orchestra will reopen in Lisbon next year. “Afghan orchestra finds hope in Portugal as music dies in homeland”, Reuters, December 14, 2021.

Afghan Refugees and a US Housing Shortage. Thousands of Afghan refugees are being released from military bases to U.S. cities to rebuild their lives. Settling them into homes amid a rental shortage is proving to be a challenge. Many are in hotel rooms for months until an affordable apartment becomes available. “A Refugee Crisis Runs Into a Housing Crisis”, The New York Times, December 15, 2021.

Life Under the Taliban

Killings Under Taliban Rule. The hardline Islamist group has been targeting former members of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces as well as Afghan judges, prosecutors, and lawyers. Female legal professionals have also been targeted. “Taliban rule marked by killings, denial of women’s rights”, Reuters, December 14, 2021.

Afghan Women – The Old Ways Are Back Again. Family dynamics are changing as some men assert their power. “After Taliban Return, Afghan Women Face Old Pressures From Fathers, Brothers”, by Margherita Stancati, The Wall Street Journal, December 15, 2021. (subscription)

Central Bank Tries to Stabilize Afghani. On Tuesday Afghanistan’s central bank announced it was taking steps to halt the fall in the afghani. The value of Afghanistan’s currency has fallen dramatically in recent weeks. “Afghanistan central bank says it is acting to halt currency slide“, Reuters, December 14, 2021.

National Resistance Front (NRF). A grassroots resistance movement that started on day one of the Taliban taking power in Kabul has plans of expanding on both a national and global level. Currently it is the only known resistance group in Afghanistan – if you don’t count the Islamic State – Khorasan Province – a terrorist group affiliated with the Islamic State based in the Middle East. Currently the NRF is a modest group with limited military capacity. “What Does the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan Have to Offer?“, by Nilly Kohzad, The Diplomat, December 15, 2021.

Good Taliban, Bad Taliban. For years the Pakistani view of the Taliban in Afghanistan was favorable while the Taliban in Pakistan was unfavorable. The leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan (TTP) is saying that his group is a branch of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. (FDD’s Long War Journal, Dec 15, 2021).

Central Asia and the Taliban. Bruce Pannier provides a summary of the relations between Afghanistan and the countries to its north. “Central Asia and the Taliban: The Difference Between a Restive Border and a Quiet One”, Radio Free Europe, December 14, 2021.

Commentary, Analysis, and Opinion

Commission on Afghanistan. A part of the annual defense package passed by Congress sets up a process to assess the failures of the 20-year long involvement of the United States in the Afghan war. President Biden is expected to sign the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The bipartisan Commission on Afghanistan will included 16 members appointed by the two major parties. An initial report is due within a year of its first meeting and a final report within three years. “US sets up commission on Afghanistan failures”, Yahoo! News, December 15, 2021.

Karzai on the Taliban Entering Kabul. Kathy Gannon writes a article that presents the former corrupt president of Afghanistan (2001 – 2014) in a favorable light (no surprise). Karzai details how a peace deal was in the works on the final day of the fall of Kabul. A little revisionism perhaps? “The AP Interview: Karzai ‘invited’ Taliban to stop chaos”, AP News, December 15, 2021.

The Fall of Kabul. Against all predictions, the Taliban took Kabul in a matter of hours. In a long but extremely interesting essay, a reporter and photographer record the days leading up to the ascension of power by the Taliban. “Inside the Fall of Kabul”, The New York Times, December 10, 2021, by Matthieu Aikins and Jim Huylebroek. (subscription).

Afghanistan: A Failure to Understand the Conflict Environment. Corinne Graff writes on the United States inability to understand the conflict environment of Afghanistan. She details the power structures and other aspects of a traditional society where the central government is weak. Graff goes on to explain how the United States can do better when it comes to engaging fragile environments. “What Afghanistan Teaches Us About Evidence-Based Policy”, United States Institute of Peace (USIP), December 2, 2021.


Photo: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Juan Estevez, assigned to the 2nd Dental Battalion, gives a young Afghan guest his COVID-19 vaccine booster shot at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., December 9, 2021. (photo by Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jessica Mazzamuto).