Topics: News about Afghanistan, Department of State evacuation of AMCITs, LPRs, and at-risk Afghans has been suspended, Kabul airport management, treasury department relaxes rules, France and Afghan refugees, Afghan camp at Quantico closes, living under the Taliban, Afghan elites failed Afghanistan, filling the power vacuum in Central and South Asia, the Baltic states and Afghanistan, . . . . . and more.
The Afghan Report is back after a two week holiday break. This post brings you up to date on the major events over the past few weeks. Subscribe to the Afghan Report Newsletter. Arrives in your email inbox every morning five days a week. Forward to your friends! Did we miss an important story? Send us a link and we will put it in our newsletter. Got a story to tell? We accept guest articles.
Evacuation from Afghanistan
DoS Flights Halted. A dispute between the Taliban and Qatar officials has halted flights on Qatar Airways charter planes for American citizens, lawful permanent residents (green card holders), and Afghans who have valid Afghan passports and Special Immigrant Visas. For almost two months the flights on behalf of the U.S. Department of State flew about once or twice a week from Kabul, Afghanistan to Doha, Qatar. Upon arriving at Al Udeid Air Base the Afghan evacuees were temporarily housed in Camp As Sayliyah. The Taliban wanted some of the seats on these DoS contracted aircraft for their ‘own people’ who were to work in the Gulf nations as migrant workers. DoS refused to allow this. Currently Qatar and Taliban officials are trying (or so the story goes) to work out an alternative arrangement. Apparently the Department of State has put ‘all their eggs in one basket’ and they currently have no other option for the evacuation of AMCITs, LPRs, and at-risk Afghans. “The Taliban have halted all evacuee flights out of Afghanistan for the past two weeks”, NBC News, December 23, 2021.
Kabul Airport Contract. Qatar and Turkey are angling to take control of the Kabul airport through an agreement with the Taliban regime. The discussion has been ongoing for a couple of months. However, Afghan businessmen are urging the government to sign a contract with a company from the United Arab Emirate. Many Afghans have settled in the UAE and have strong business connections in that country. “Kabul Airport Contract ‘Should be Given to the UAE'”, Tolo News, December 27, 2021.
Collapse of the Afghan Air Force – Pilots Left Behind. In July and August the handwriting was on the wall. The Taliban was closing in on victory and the AAF attempted to consolidate its operations and fall back to Kabul. Unfortunately, the U.S. Air Force stopped providing laser-guided bombs and spare parts for aircraft. The foreign contractors that maintained the aircraft and managed the logistics system left Afghanistan. A feeble announcement by the Department of Defense that the AAF would be advised remotely did nothing to alleviate the departure of the contractors. Some AAF personnel flew to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan with their aircraft, but others remain behind – targeted by the Taliban for imprisonment, torture, and death. “Special Report: Pilots detail chaotic collapse of the Afghan Air Force”, Reuters, December 29, 2021.
Kazakhs Attempt to Leave Afghanistan. Over the past several decades Afghanistan was a place for Kazakhs to move to and begin a new life. However, since the 1990s many of these ethnic Kazakhs have opted to return to their country of origin – Kazakhstan. However, the coming to power of the Taliban has reduced the Kazakh embassy operations in Kabul and throngs of people claiming Kazakh roots have swamped the official resettlement program offered by that country. “Resettlement of Afghanistan’s Ethnic Kazakhs to Kazakhstan Hampered by Taliban Takeover”, Gandara Blog, December 28, 2021.
Passport Office in Kabul. Social media reports indicate that the Kabul passport office still remains closed due to security concerns. A bombing took place at a checkpoint outside the passport office in Kabul and it has been closed since then. The allocation of Thursday for Taliban members is no longer valid. The office, once it reopens, will be open Sunday through Wednesday.
National IDs. The National Statistics and Information Administration of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) announced that about 340,000 electronic National IDs have been issued in the past four months. About 14,000 IDs are issued on a daily basis. The IEA charges Afghani 300 for each applicant. “Taliban issue 340,000 national IDs in four months”, Khaama Press, January 1, 2022.
Project Dynamo: State Could be More Helpful. Ryan Mills reports on the efforts of Project Dynamo and other Afghan evac organizations attempting to bring at-risk Afghans to safety. However, DoS isn’t exactly bending over backwards to assist. “State Department ‘Actively Impeding’ Rescue Efforts as Afghanistan Fades from Spotlight, Vets Say”, National Review, December 29, 2021.
Hundreds of Afghans Denied HP. More than 35,000 applications by Afghans for Humanitarian Parole have been received by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). About 470 have been denied and only 140 have been conditionally approved. The USCIS has outlined some very narrow criteria for granting HP and it is typically granted for someone who presents evidence of imminent severe harm. “Hundreds of Afghans denied humanitarian entry into the US”, Associated Press News, December 30, 2021.
Treasury Department Relaxes Rules. The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has issued three General Licenses to facilitate the continued flow of humanitarian assistance and other support for the Afghan people. (Treasury Dept, Dec 22, 2021).
Afghan Evacuee Resettlement
France and Afghan Refugees. During the Kabul airlift of August 2021 France evacuated around 2,600 Afghans. Several hundred more Afghans have been quietly evacuated since August 31st. These Afghans evacuees have been accorded preferential access to housing and their asylum claims have been fast-tracked – primarily because they were connected to the French effort in Afghanistan. Other Afghans, many who did not have a French connection in Afghanistan, have found other ways to France – but their situation is markedly different than those evacuated by the French from Afghanistan. “Two different paths: The barriers facing some Afghans seeking protection in France”, by Sophie Stuber, The New Humanitarian, December 22, 2021.
Out of Afghanistan, Searching for a Home. Over the past several months thousands and thousands of Afghans have fled to other countries. Most overland to Iran, some overland to Pakistan. Many, however were flown by aircraft during the chaotic days of August 2021 to a number of countries around the world. Some have landed in a country that will permanently accept them – others are on borrowed time, hoping to find a new home. Read the story of families that have found their way to Australia, Uganda, Albania, Germany, and Mexico. “Unsettled: Searching for home after escaping the Taliban”, The Washington Post, December 27, 2021.
Last Afghans Depart Fort Bliss Refugee Camp. Secretary Mayorkas announced on Twitter on December 31st that the last group of Afghan nationals have departed the transit and holding Dona Ana Complex on Fort Bliss in Texas.
Canada to Resettle Female Afghan Judges. The immigration office of Canada announced that Canada will resettle female Afghan judges who are now living in Greece after being evacuated from Afghanistan. Including family members, the total number of people to be resettled in this group is 230. Thus far, Canada has resettled 3,915 Afghans who were connected to the Canadian government and another 2,535 others on humanitarian grounds. Canada has pledged to take in up to 40,000 Afghan refugees. “Canada to take in female Afghan judges from Greece”, Khaama Press, January 1, 2022.
Afghans Wait to be Resettled. A lack of proper documents by Afghans have left many stranded in overseas refugee camps. Thousands are in Humanitarian City in the United Arab Emirates. Other Afghans who have made it to the United States are still on military camps across the country. They are having a long stay on the U.S. refugee camps because of a nation-wide shortage of affordable housing. “Months later, Afghan evacuees abroad and at US bases still wait to be resettled”, CNN Politics, December 29, 2021.
Quantico – Last Afghans Leave. The camp on Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia that housed Afghans evacuees for many months has now closed. The last remaining Afghans have left to be resettled in communities across the United States. The last Afghans left on Thursday, December 23rd. Quantico is the second base to be clear of all refugees. Six bases are still providing housing and services to some 25,000 Afghans as of the later part of December. “Last Afghan refugees leave Virginia’s Quantico Marine base”, Marine Corps Times, December 24, 2021.
Life Under the Taliban
Long Distance Road Travel for Women – Restricted. The Taliban have now decided that Afghan women traveling long distances over land should be accompanied by a male relative. The directive, issued on December 26th, is the latest curb restricting women’s rights in Afghanistan. The Taliban have introduced a series of rules restricting the lives of women in that country. “Afghanistan’s Taliban ban long-distance road trips for solo women”, BBC News, December 27, 2021.
Election Commissions Dissolved. The Independent Election Commission and the Electoral Complaint Commission were dissolved by the Taliban-run government in December 2021. They were called ‘unnecessary institutes’ for Afghanistan. The commissions had been set up by previous administrations to administer and supervise the presidential, parliamentary, and provincial council elections. “Taliban-run government dissolves Afghan election commissions”, AP News, December 26, 2021.
Selling Children for Food. Severe drought, a staggering economy, massive unemployment, and rising food prices are forcing parents to make difficult decisions. “Parents selling children shows desperation of Afghanistan”, Associated Press News, December 31, 2021.
Final Weeks of Fighting – An Account of ANDSF Casualties. Over 4,000 members of the Afghans security forces died in the summer of 2021 attempting to deny the Taliban victory. Another 1,000 are missing. “Final weeks of fighting among deadliest for Afghan security forces, former official says: 4,000 dead and 1,000 missing”, The Washington Post, December 30, 2021. (subscription).
Why Ghani Left Afghanistan. The former President of Afghanistan stated in an interview that he did not know he would depart Kabul until the last minute. He also stated that when he boarded the helicopter he didn’t know that he was leaving the country. He thought he was on his way to link up with the Khost Protection Force (KPF) in eastern Afghanistan. “Ex-Afghan president says had no choice but to flee Kabul”, Associated Press News, December 30, 2021.
Electricity from Tajikistan. The Afghan power company, DABS, and Tajikistan have signed a contract where electricity will be exported to Afghanistan. Read a press release by DABS, December, 2021.
Commentary, Analysis, and Opinion
How Afghan Power Elite Failed Afghanistan. Roxanna Shapour provides a detailed account of how Afghanistan’s political leaders squandered their countries future in order to line their own pockets with money. “Realpolitik and the 2021 National Budget: The toxic struggle for money and power that undermined Afghanistan’s Republic”, Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN), December 21, 2021.
Taliban Victory – How it Happened. Kate Clark, co-founder of the Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN), writes a detailed summary of how the Taliban achieved victory in the summer of 2021. Her report looks at how districts and provincial capitals fell to the Taliban, traces the various roles played by the Republic, the Taliban, and Washington in the Taliban victory, and looks to history to consider how secure the Taliban’s second Emirate may be. “Afghanistan’s conflict in 2021 (2): Republic collapse and Taliban victory in the long-view of history”, AAN, December 30, 2021.
Filling the Power Vacuum. With the withdrawal of the U.S. from Afghanistan other nations are looking to fill the void left behind. Russia, Iran, and China are some of the big power brokers looking to solidify their countries interests. Other nations in the Central and South Asia region are aiming to do the same. “Regional Powers Seek to Fill Vacuum Left by West’s Retreat from Afghanistan”, by Ron Synovitz, Radio Free Europe, December 25, 2021.
Baltic States and Afghanistan. The nations of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania all contributed funds and personnel to the ISAF and later Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan. Estonia saw military combat in Helmand province, Latvia committed advisory teams to northeast Afghanistan and later in northern Afghanistan, and Lithuania stood up the PRT in Ghor province. All three nations did much more than this, of course. Read more in “Afghanistan Was a Turbulent NATO Proving Ground for the Baltic States”, by Eoin Micheal McNamara, Baltic Bulletin, December 20, 2021.
Australian Army – Changed by Two Decades of War in Afghanistan. Brendan Nicholson, executive editor of The Strategist, provides an account of how the Australian Army, and especially its special operations forces, evolved for better and worse over twenty years. “Australian Army profoundly changed by two decades of war in Afghanistan”, The Strategist, Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), December 31, 2021.
Books, Reports, Podcasts, and Videos
Webinar – Assisting Citizens of Afghanistan. On January 14, 2022, a webinar will take place where presenters will discuss the current legal status of Afghan arrivals and their options for moving forward to obtain permanent status. Presented by the Catholic Legal Immigration Clinic. Speakers include Elizabeth Carlson, Kristina Karpinski, and Charles Wheeler.
Photo: Army Specialist Grace Ryoo checks in Afghan guests as they arrive at the Philadelphia International Airport (photo US Army, Nov 24, 2021)