Topics: News about Afghanistan, evacuation of AMCITs, LPRs, and at-risk Afghans, final flights of Afghan Air Force, famine, Mick Mulroy on Afghan conflict, books, Sponsor Circle Program, Afghan SOF left behind, a woman’s life upended, negotiating with the Taliban on flights, lost HKIA baby found, Afghan HP benefits, UK resettlement scheme (ACRS), religious policing, computer coding, Alice Hickson on Hazara persecution, book, testimony, and events, and more.
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Evacuation from Afghanistan
Final Flights of AAF. As the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) collapsed across Afghanistan the Afghan Air Force (AAF) repositioned its aircraft to Kabul. On August 15th the AAF pilots were instructed to fly out of the country. Pilots and some of their families flew north in 46 aircraft to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Read more in an article by Catherine Putz entitled “The Final Flights of the Afghan Air Force”, The Diplomat, December 30, 2021.
Afghan Commandos – Left Behind. Thousands of Afghan allies were left behind once the U.S. military non-combatant evacuation operation (NEO) ended on August 31st in Kabul. The more vulnerable of these are the former Afghan commandos who did 70% of the offensive operations against the Taliban. They have no real pathway to the United States – as they don’t fit the neat category of the Special Immigrant Visa and the Humanitarian Parole and P1 / P2 applications are really not being processed by the United States government. “20,000 Afghan commandos left behind, Lawmakers and veterans urge Biden to rescue them”, Fox News, January 5, 2022.
“The Taliban are hunting them down. The administration just wants this to go away. They just want to turn the page. It’s one of the most heartless things I’ve ever encountered”Representative Mike Waltz, R-Fla, and former Green Beret with two tours in Afghanistan.
Negotiations with the Taliban – Prisoner Swap, Evac Flights, and More? Some news reports indicate that the Taliban would likely release an American engineer abducted two years ago in Afghanistan if the right conditions were met by the United States. Social media posts say that the resumption of Department of State sanctioned evacuation flights by Qatar Airlines from Kabul to Doha are contingent to the United States releasing prisoners from U.S prisons. The State Department says the flights have been suspended due to a tiff between Qatar and the Taliban. Things that make you say ‘Hmmm’ – who to believe. Unverified reports on social media or the U.S. Department of State with a big history of distorting or hiding the facts when it comes to the events surrounding the Kabul NEO and aftermath. Other news reports suggest that the release of Frerichs (the held American) is possible if the right prisoners are released by the U.S. Then, of course, there is the $9 billion of Afghan funds frozen in U.S. bank accounts. While most outsiders would think that the international community holds leverage with the promise of international assistance for the mitigating of the huge humanitarian crisis . . . the bottom line is that the Taliban really don’t care about how many Afghans starve. So, there probably isn’t any leverage. Perhaps it is all wrapped up in one big negotiation. Hard to tell not knowing.
Lost HKIA Baby Found. An infant boy handed in desperation to a soldier providing security on the Kabul airport perimeter has been reunited with his family in Kabul. His parents are in Michigan after being evacuated in August 2021. “Baby lost in chaos of Afghanistan airlift found, returned to family”, Reuters, January 8, 2022.
Stanford Alumni Assist in Afghan Evac. Former students at Stanford University provided an assist to others in the effort to extract at-risk Afghans during the chaotic days of August 2021. “Master’s Program Alumni and Students Connect to Withdraw Civilians from Afghanistan“, Freeman Spolgli Institute for International Studies, December 15, 2021.
Afghan Evacuee Resettlement
Benefits for Afghan Humanitarian Parolees Now in the U.S. A huge influx of Afghans evacuees made it to the United States as a result of the Kabul non-combatant evacuation operation (NEO) in August 2021. Many of them flew to ‘lily pads’ in the Middle East and to Europe as well. Most had no legal basis for entry into the United States. But the U.S. had a dilemma . . . what to do with the many thousands of Afghans it airlifted out of the Kabul airport during the chaotic month of August. So the U.S. government extended Humanitarian Parole to the Afghans that made it to the United States that did not have American citizenship, a green card (lawful permanent resident), or a valid visa or pending Special Immigrant Visa application in the process of being approved. Certain Afghan individuals paroled into the U.S. between July 2021 through September 2022 are eligible to apply for benefits and resettlement assistance. To learn more read a two-page PDF by the Administration for Children & Families of the Office of Refugee Resettlement.
UK Resettlement Scheme. The United Kingdom’s Home Office has announced further details of the Afghan citizens plan to assist Afghans who worked with the UK military and government organizations in Afghanistan and other vulnerable people. The government plans to resettle more than 5,000 people in the first year and up to 20,000 over the coming years. The UK will work with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to identify who to help. The website with information of the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS) was updated on January 6, 2022.
Life Under the Taliban and Afghanistan News
Current State of the Afghan Air Force. The U.S. defense establishment is not very forthcoming about the aircraft of the Afghan Air Force (AAF) that survived the departure of U.S. forces and collapse of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) in August 2021. It provided lots of information about aircraft it rendered inoperable at the Kabul airport in the last days of August 2021 but little on aircraft located across Afghanistan. Around 46 aircraft were flown by Afghan pilots to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. According to a news report the former government owned 164 aircraft of which 81 were still in the country. But only 41 of the 81 military aircraft are currently operational. Of course, this news report is based on statements by Islamic Emirate officials, so . . . Read more in “81 Military Aircraft of Ex-Govt Remain, 41 Operational”, Tolo News, January 4, 2022.
MD-530 Helicopter Crash in Kandahar. Social media had multiple posts of a video depicting flooding in Kandahar province. On one of the videos an MD-530 helicopter was seen flying erratically and then splashing into the flood waters. A Taliban spokesman said that the two pilots survived – one is in critical condition. This will no doubt adjust the “41” figure cited in the above paragraph by one. “MoD Confirms Helicopter Crash in Kandahar”, Tolo News, January 5, 2022.
Border Clash with Turkmenistan. An exchange of gunfire between Turkmen border guards and Taliban took place on January 3rd. News reports about the border clashes between these two countries hardly ever are commented on by Turkmen authorities. This is probably a very isolated incident, not a reoccurring event. “First Firefight: Turkmen, Taliban Engage in Border Shoot-Out”, Gandara Blog, January 5, 2021.
Religious Policing . . . It’s Back Again. When the Taliban took power in Afghanistan this past summer it told the international community that it was a more tolerant and modern version of the Taliban. However, the Taliban’s Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice is now playing a central role as an enforcer of the Taliban’s radical interpretation of Islamic Law. This bodes ill for the women and girls of Afghanistan as well as the entire population of the country. Read more in “Afghans Fear For Their Rights as Taliban Resurrects Religious Policing”, Gandhara Blog, Janaury 6, 2022.
Bathhouses Now Off Limits for Women. Many Afghan women rely on public bathhouses for a warm wash – especially in the winter months, but now the ‘hammams‘ or public bathhouses are off limits to women in parts of northern Afghanistan. “Taliban stop Afghan women from using bathhouses in northern provinces”, The Guardian, January 7, 2022.
A Woman’s Life Upended. A university lecturer reflects on how the Taliban takeover changed her life and wonders if the hard work over the past 20 years was all for nothing. An instructor on economics at Rabia Balkhi University in Kabul, she writes about that fateful day of August 15th when the Taliban entered Kabul and how she made her escape from Afghanistan via Spin Boldak on the Pakistan border utilizing border smugglers. Now she lives in hiding in Quetta with a dismal future. “The life I built as an Afghan woman went in the blink of an eye”, Aljazeera, December 30, 2021.
Humanitarian Assistance and Economy
Famine. Four months after the Biden administration withdrew U.S. troops, more than twenty million Afghans are on the brink of starvation. Pregnant women in Afghanistan are malnourished and unable to carry children to full term – thus giving birth prematurely. Many of these babies survive; but many of them die. The health system is failing . . . for the most part. Only seventeen per cent of the country’s 2,300 health clinics are functional. The economy is in freefall contributing to the lack of jobs and food for much of the population. The World Food Program has opened up multiple food distribution centers across the country; but it is not enough. Jane Ferguson provides the details in “Afghanistan Has Become the World’s Largest Humanitarian Crisis”, The New Yorker, January 5, 2022.
To Eat or Stay Warm – a Hard Choice. Most people in Afghanistan don’t have enough food to eat and millions are facing hunger and starvation. An economic meltdown, the halt of international assistance funding, and a multi-year drought is adding to the difficulties of Afghans who are now experiencing a harsh Afghan winter. The shortage of food has affected both rural and urban Afghans. The World Food Program (WFP) is assisting where it can but it is a costly endeavor that needs international support. “For many Afghans, winter is forcing a cruel choice of whether to eat or stay warm”, NPR, January 6, 2022.
Computer Coding and the Promise of the Future . . . Perhaps. In Afghanistan, tech entrepreneurship was once promoted as a element of peace-building and one way to improve the economy of the country. But now young tech savvy Afghans wonder whether to stay under the Taliban regime or escape to a more promising future abroad. “The code must go on: An Afghan coding bootcamp becomes a lifeline under Taliban rule”, MIT Technology Review, December 30, 2021.
Commentary, Analysis, and Opinion
Afghanistan: Right War – Fought the Wrong Way. Mick Mulroy provides his perspective on the Afghan conflict and how the United States blundered in its strategy. He is a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Middle East, a former Marine, and a retired CIA Paramilitary Operations Officer. Rather than the all-in nation building approach, Mulroy says utilizing a ‘tactical advantage approach’ would have served the U.S. and Afghanistan better. He points to the type of support provided to the Northern Alliance, the Peshmerga, Iraqi SOF, and Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in recent years as an example to follow. Read “The right war fought the wrong way: Reflecting on the US withdrawal from Afghanistan”, Middle East Institute, January 5, 2022.
Protecting the Hazara People. Alice Hickson argues that the international community should be taking steps to safeguard minority populations in Afghanistan. She says that delivering of international aid could be tied to monitoring systems to force the Taliban into responsible behavior. “Protecting the Hazara People of Afghanistan is a Moral Obligation the World is Failing to Meet”, Global Security Review, January 6, 2022.
Books and Events
Town Hall Event – Welcoming Afghans Through the Sponsor Circle Program for Afghans. On Monday, January 10, 2022, 3-4 PM EST the Sponsor Circle Program will be explained in a online webinar over Zoom. This town hall is open to anyone with an interest in learning more about how to get involved in the Sponsor Circle Program for Afghans.
Austin Testimony on Afghanistan. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will be testifying in Congress on Tuesday, January 11, 2022 before the U.S. Senate on the U.S. pullout from Afghanistan. The proceedings will not be open to the public and are considered classified. “Austin to testify on Afghanistan next week”, Defense News, January 4, 2022.
Book – Ali’s American Dream. Jason Criss Howk and Nasirullah Safi collaborate on a book about a man’s journey to begin a new life in America after leaving his war-torn country. Published in December 2021, this paperback is 70 pages and can be used in English as a Second Language instruction for adults. Ali’s American Dream: An Iraqi Refugee’s Story of Survival and Triumph is available on Amazon.com.
Photo: An Afghan Air Force UH-60 Blackhawk piloted by an Afghan and American pilot fly over Afghanistan on December 8, 2018. (photo by Staff Sgt. Clayton, DVIDS)