Topics: News about Afghanistan, evacuation of AMCITs, LPRs, and at-risk Afghans, private evac efforts, Kabul passport office, New Zealand resettlement (closed), terrorist threat from IS-KP and al Qaeda, Taliban meet with resistance in Iran, U.S. aid to Afghanistan, Project Dynamo, U.N. asks for $5 B, webinars, reports, and more.
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Evacuation from Afghanistan
Private Afghan Evac Efforts . . . Running on Fumes. Thousands of at-risk Afghans – interpreters, staff, and others who aided the U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan – were left behind on August 31st with the conclusion of the Kabul non-combatant evacuation operation. Private volunteer organizations – most of them formed around a nucleus of U.S. veterans who served in Afghanistan – had been providing assistance to Afghans attempting to get onto the Kabul airport to board a plane to freedom. These Afghan evac organizations continued their work after the U.S. military and Department of State washed their hands of the the affair on August 31st. These private organizations have continued to work towards this effort – some in concert with the limited efforts of the Department of State and others on private operations despite the obstacles put in place by the U.S. government. Resources are drying up, the media’s attention has shifted elsewhere, and the Biden administration and Congress would just like to see this problem go away. This has taken its toll on the volunteers working in the Afghan Evac effort. “Private efforts to get vulnerable people out of Afghanistan running on fumes”, The Washington Examiner, January 8, 2022.
“There are veterans that have emptied their 401Ks, they’ve emptied their savings accounts. And our veteran population is really damaged from this too. I mean, the ones that they’ve been on, like the world’s longest 911 call. They haven’t been able to hang up the phone because they’re the lifeline to these people, and they’re not gonna hang up the phone. So now they’re being re-traumatized — we’re seeing suicidal ideations go up.”Scott Mann, Task Force Pineapple, former Green Beret.
Private Evac Flights. Evacuation flights by private volunteer groups are far and few between. The Department of State has been very unsupporting of the effort. Project Dynamo is one of the groups that has conducted one of the most recent flights (Dec). Read “Private Group Keeps Afghanistan Evacuations Flying Despite Ground Halt”, Defense One, January 11, 2022.
DoS Evacuation Flights – Or Not. It has been about a month since a Department of State sanctioned evacuation flight utilizing Qatar Airlines departed Kabul for Doha. Ned Price, the DoS spokesperson, was asked on Tuesday, January 11th during a press conference on the current status of the flights and when the last one occurred. In a ‘most excellent’ bureaucratic fashion, using a multitude of evasive techniques, he partially answered the question.
Kabul Passport Office – Still Closed. While passport departments are open in other provinces, the central passport department in Kabul remains closed. It was closed after a suicide bomber attack on December 25, 2021. The online registration system is not functioning anymore due to technical issues. “Public Criticism Continues as Passport Department Remains Shut”, Tolo News, January 9, 2022.
Italian Court – Orders Visas Issued. The Court of Rome has stepped in to provide protection to two Afghans who had applied for humanitarian protection. The Afghans were journalists whose lives were in danger because of their occupation. (Info Migrants, Jan 5, 2022).
Refugee Admissions to US will Restart. The huge influx of Afghan refugees into the United States as a result of the Afghan non-combatant evacuation operation forced the Department of State to put refugee programs around the world on hold. The temporary freeze of refugee admissions allowed the State Department to focus on the resettlement of Afghan evacuees. This week, admissions will resume for refugees from countries other than Afghanistan. “Refugee admissions to the US will restart this week after temporary freeze”, CNN, January 10, 2022.
Disparity Between ‘at-risk’ Afghan Refugees and Illegal Border Crossers. About 70,000 Afghans were evacuated during August 2021 and brought to U.S. military bases where they were screened and vaccinated for COVID, vaccinated for measles and other medical threats, and underwent biometrics and background checks. About 19,000 are still on U.S. military installations. There are thousands more in Qatar and Kosovo on military installations as well, undergoing the same stringent criteria. The subsequent entry of Afghan evacuees to the U.S. beginning in September 2021 is very strict – it is a formal immigration process requiring proper documents (passports and visas), medical exams, in-person interview, biometrics and security background checks, and more.
On the other hand, there is the U.S. southern border where apparently if you can cross a line on a map (illegally) you are now granted entry. Over 100,000 noncitizens were released by the Border Patrol from March to August 2021. They were given instructions to self-report to Immigration and Customs Enforcement within 60 days. Over 47,000 of these border crossers have not reported in. So, on one hand, we have some very strict criteria for the entry of ‘at-risk’ Afghans who served alongside or supported the U.S. military in Afghanistan who are under threat by the Taliban and some very loose criteria for entry for people from various nations who have no previous association with the United States. “47,705 migrants released with instructions to report to ICE have gone missing under Biden”, Washington Examiner, Jan 11, 2022.
Afghan Evacuee Resettlement
“19,500” Remain. Military bases are still the temporary home for over 19,000 Afghan evacuees. Most of them, around 9,700, are at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey. The remainder are on bases in Wisconsin, Virginia, Indiana, and New Mexico. “Thousands of Afghans Remain Housed on US Bases Months After the Fall of Kabul“, Military.com, January 10, 2022.
New Zealand – Resettlement for Afghans Now Closed. An announcement by the New Zealand Immigration office has indicated that the NZ evacuation operation has now come to an end and that Afghan nationals with a valid visa will need to rely on commercial flights to be able to travel to New Zealand. Applications for resettlement in New Zealand are now closed. (Dec 8, 2021).
Life Under the Taliban
Terrorist Threat in Afghanistan Grows. U.S. security officials fear that both al Qaeda and Islamic State – Khorasan Province capabilities have grown in the several months since the U.S. military has departed Afghanistan. They are worried that both groups will have the capability to launch international attacks in a matter of months. “Defense officials fear ISIS-K and al Qaeda threats in Afghanistan growing as months go by”, Washington Examiner, January 7, 2022.
Meeting in Iran. Taliban officials met with leaders of several Afghan resistance groups in Iran in a two-day meeting. The resistance leaders want to talk about a transitional government. The TB offered surrender terms and safe passage back to Afghanistan . . . no takers apparently. Resistance leaders say that the talks had “achieved nothing”. Two of the leaders at the meeting were Ismail Khan and Ahmad Massoud. “Taliban meets with opposition militia representatives in Iran”, The Washington Post, January 10, 2022. See also “Resistance Front Proposed Transitional Govt to Islamic Emirate”, Tolo News, January 11, 2022.
Fighting in Panjshir Province? Clashes are reported to have occurred between the Taliban and the National Resistance Front (NRF) in the Panjshir region. Not a lot of press has come out on the situation in the Panjshir Valley – media access is limited. (Bollyinside Daily News, Jan 8, 2022).
A Tiny Border Dispute. The Pashtun population lives on both sides of the Afghan-Pak border. The Pakistan government has been putting up border barriers (fences) for a number of years. The current border is delineated by the Durand Line – one that Afghanistan does not recognize. So there is a bit of a dispute going on at the moment between the two countries.
TB Wants Their Aircraft Back. The Taliban are demanding that Uzbekistan and Tajikistan return the aircraft flown to those respective countries in mid-August 2021 by Afghan Air Force pilots. At least 46 aircraft landed in the Central Asian countries bordering Afghanistan. “Taliban warned of repercussions if choppers, planes were not returned by Tajikistan, Uzbekistan”, Khaama Press News Agency, January 12, 2022. In other news, a topic that has nothing to do with Taliban threats to Uzbekistan over the AAF aircraft, the electricity from Uzbekistan to Afghanistan has been interrupted for unknown reasons.
$308 Million in U.S. Aid. The White House announced that more humanitarian assistance is on the way to Afghanistan. The aid from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) will flow through humanitarian organizations. The money will provide shelter, health care, winterization assistance, emergency food aid, water, and other services. (Military Times, Jan 11, 2022). See also a USAID press release (Jan 11, 2022).
U.N. Seeks Aid Increase. The United Nations is asking for $5 billion from international donors to address the humanitarian needs of Afghanistan. This is the biggest appeal for aid ever for a single country. Most of the money would be used in Afghanistan; although some $623 million would be used to cope with almost 3 million refugees in neighboring countries, mainly Iran and Pakistan. “U.N. Seeks Huge Aid Increase to Prevent ‘Catastrophe’ in Afghanistan”, The New York Times, January 11, 2022.
Here’s Your Paycheck – A Bundle of Wheat. The Taliban is expanding its ‘food for work’ program where it pays public sector employees with donated wheat instead of cash. Donated by India, at least most of it, the wheat will pay 40,000 workers 10kg of wheat per day (or five hours work). Currently this program is for public sector workers in Kabul but could be expanded to other areas of the country. Pakistan has also provide some wheat to Afghanistan. “Taliban increase payment in wheat as economic crisis deepens”, Reuters, January 11, 2022.
Commentary, Analysis, and Opinion
U.S. and the Afghanistan Meltdown. Laurel Miller, the director of the Asia Program at the International Crisis Group, offers her perspective on Afghanistan. She accuses the Biden administration of muddling through with half-measures in meeting the needs of the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. She believes that the U.S. should work with the Taliban-led government to prevent a failed state. “Afghanistan is in Meltdown, and the U.S. is Helping to Speed it Up”, The New York Times, January 11, 2022.
Books, Reports, Podcasts, and Videos
Report – Rebuilding the U.S. Refugee Program for the Future: 22 Recommendations for 2022. The International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) has published a 16 page report with 22 recommendations to improve how the United States processes and supports refugees from around the world. Many of these recommendations would directly improve the situation of at-risk Afghans attempting to leave Afghanistan and resettle in the United States.
Educational Resources For Afghans. Immigrants from around the world are faced with language challenges once entering the United States. This is true of the thousands of Afghans who are now resettling in communities across the country. There are some resources available online. This is one of them:
Book – Noor: A Blind Afghan Girl. A work of historical fiction by Ahmad Ansari published in December 2021 captures the world of a female Afghan living in a country with decades of conflict. Available on Amazon.com.
Webinar – LTG (R) McMaster and Amb. Mohib on Afghanistan. In this panel discussion H.R. McMaster and Ambassador Hamdullah Mohib discuss the causes of collapse in Afghanistan, the consequences, and options to mitigate the growing crisis. The event aired on YouTube on January 12, 2022. Battlegrounds, Hoover Institution.
Photo: Staff at the refugee camp at Fort Dix conduct medical screening of Afghan refugees. (Photo by USAF Staff Sgt. Mikaley Kline, December 5, 2021).