Topics: News about Afghanistan, evacuation of AMCITs, LPRs, and at-risk Afghans, humanitarian crisis, Afghan embassies – still open, Germany and Afghan evac, students safe in Portugal, Save Our Allies, USRAP P-2 program, Sponsor Circle Program, Mark Frerichs, failing the Hazara community, education for girls, Nepal helps out, bank ATMs online, money exchange markets, . . . . . and more.
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Evacuation from Afghanistan
Afghanistan’s Embassies – Who Do They Work For? Some ambassadors put in place by the former Kabul government remain on duty and are loyal to the previous regime. However, the Taliban are slowly making inroads in replacing the staff in Afghan embassies. Almost all of the 65 diplomatic missions continue to fly the flag of the past Afghan republic. The diplomatic staff in Afghan embassy in Pakistan are Taliban appointees. Some of the diplomatic missions have resigned their positions and asked for asylum. However, many continue to serve, providing consular services to Afghan and foreign citizens. The Taliban continue to recognize the visas and passports issued by these diplomatic missions. Hanif Atmar, the former foreign minister, appears to be a central coordinating official for these overseas diplomatic posts – using WhatsApp and Zoom calls to keep in contact. “Taliban Intensify Efforts to Take Control of Afghanistan’s Overseas Embassies”, The Wall Street Journal, January 18, 2022. See also “Afghanistan’s Embassies Remain in Limbo as Most Staff Still Loyal to Toppled Government“, Gandhara, January 17, 2022.
Germany and Evacuating Nationals. An author with extensive legal experience in international law, Claus Kress, provides his perspective on the legality of the German evacuation of nationals and Afghans during the Kabul airlift of August 2021. “Evacuating Nationals – A Noteworthy New Element of German Practice and Opinio Juris”, Just Security, January 14, 2022.
Afghan Refugees Arrive in Canada. More than 200 Afghans have landed in Vancouver, Canada to begin new lives across the country. They arrived on the evening of January 18th on a charter flight from Pakistan. Most of them were individuals who worked with the Canadian government in Afghanistan and family members. There are now more than 7,000 Afghan refugees in Canada. “More than 200 Afghan refugees land in Vancouver after fleeing the Taliban”, Castlegar News, January 19, 2022.
Save Our Allies. A former Marine Corps officer, Matt Nelson, served in Afghanistan and watched in disbelief as the Biden administration left behind thousands of Afghans who assisted the U.S. military’s 20-year involvement in the Afghan conflict. He and others went into the action mode and formed up Save Our Allies. Matt describes in this article how veterans, caregivers, advocates, and nonprofit organizations came together to raise funds, charter flights, and did the job that the U.S. government was reluctant to do. “Afghanistan’s human rights crisis continues – we cannot forget those trapped there”, The Hill, January 17, 2022.
USRAP P-2 Program. The U.S. Department of State Population, Refugees, and Migration office published a 3-page fact sheet (PDF) entitled Information for U.S.-Affiliated Afghan Nationals Regarding U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) Referrals dated January 3, 2022.
P1 and P2 Programs for Afghans. Some Afghan citizens can be considered for resettlement in the United States as a refugee. Afghan citizens cannot apply directly for refugee resettlement to the U.S. Their U.S.-based family members, friends, or lawyers also cannot refer them. They must be referred by a U.S. government official or the U.S.-affiliated company or organization that employed the Afghan citizen in Afghanistan. Read more in “Am I eligible for the new Afghan refugee program?”, International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP), September 2021.
Afghan Evacuee Resettlement
Sponsoring an Afghan Family. A new program allows private citizens to sponsor Afghan refugees who are resettling in the United States. Called the Sponsor Circle Program, small groups of Americans can join together to pool funds and efforts to assist Afghans to resettle in a U.S. community. There are six steps to form a sponsor circle. Learn more by reading “How to sponsor an Afghan refugee family”, Vox.com, January 17, 2022.
Online University for Afghans Abroad. A group of Afghan academics recently gathered in Frankfurt, Germany to discuss the establishment of the “Afghan Exile Online University (AEOU)”. The goal is to provide and ideology free education to Afghans in Afghanistan and abroad. The two-day conference was organized by the World University Service. Afghan scholars from Germany, Austria, and Canada attended as well as former Afghan officials. “Afghan Diaspora to launch online university in Europe“, by Ali Ahmad, Vienna Institute for International Dialogue and Cooperation (VIDC), January 2022.
Afghan Student Musicians Safe in Portugal. In August 2021 supporters of an Afghan music school for young students attempted to move seven busloads of people onto the Kabul airport. Despite being on the buses for over 17 hours and waiting at an entry gate to the airport – they were not allowed onto the airfield by U.S. authorities. Eventually, many of those on buses made it out of the country by other means. They would eventually fly out on five different aircraft to Doha, Qatar and then on to Portugal. The students, staff, and family members of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music will be starting a new life in Portugal. “Members of a famous music school were airlifted out of Afghanistan”, The Berkshire Eagle, January 16, 2022.
Afghanistan and Regional News
Mark Frerichs – Held Hostage. The only known hostage held by the Taliban will soon begin his third year of captivity. Thus far, two U.S. administrations have not had success in gaining his release. Frerichs is a civil engineer and former Navy diver. He had been working overseas for ten years until he was abducted on January 31, 2020. It is believed that his captures are members of the Haqqani network that operate under the Taliban umbrella. The Taliban would release Frerichs in exchange for Bashir Noorzai – an Afghan drug lord serving a life sentence in a U.S. prison for smuggling $50 million of heroin into the U.S. “Mark Frerichs, sole American hostage held in Afghanistan, nears third year in captivity”, by Barnini Chakraborty, The Washington Examiner, January 14, 2022.
Failing the Hazara-Shia Community. West Kabul city has been targeted with some of the city’s deadliest attacks since 2016. The predominantly Hazara community, as well as Hazara enclaves across Afghanistan, has been the scene of assassinations and bombings. Ali Yawar Adili reports on how the Afghan governments, past and present, have failed at protecting ethnic Hazaras and other Shia-Muslims from violence. (Afghanistan Analysts Network, Jan 17, 2022).
EIA to Deploy Troops to Sar-e Pul Province. Experienced and newly trained Taliban fighters will be based in Sar-e Pul province in northern Afghanistan. A Taliban official denied the existence of Islamic State – Khorasan Province (ISKP) fighters in the province. “Islamic Emirate Deploys Around 2,500 Troops to Sar-e-Pul”, Tolo News, Janaury 17, 2022.
Internal Discord Among TB. Reports of fighting between Taliban fighters – some Uzbek and some Pashtun have surfaced. Apparently there was a four-day skirmish resulting in eight deaths in Faryab province. The Taliban will need to become more inclusive at governing if they are to keep small uprisings from taking place in the future. Read “Afghanistan dispatch: Taliban disagreements and disconnection may bring on another war”, The Jurist, January 16, 2022.
Afghan Women and Girls
Afghan Women Deprived. Severe restrictions, harassment, and fear are now the reality for women in Afghanistan. The ascendance of the Taliban has resulted in a devastating set back for women’s rights. The Human Rights Institute at San Jose State University has studied the plight of women and girls in Ghazni province since the Taliban have taken over. Its findings has been published in a report by Human Rights Watch the topics of loss of income and employment, rising prices, financial crisis, intimidation and threats, new forms of insecurity, new rules for women’s conduct and dress, barriers to health care, barriers to education, education curriculum changes, and mental health consequences are detailed. “Afghanistan: Taliban Deprive Women of Livelihoods, Identity”, Human Rights Watch, January 18, 2022.
School for Girls to Resume . . . But . . . . Senior Taliban leader Zabihullah Majahid says that classrooms may open for all girls by mid-March 2022. However, this will also involve new rules and regulations that must be followed – including the complete segregation of boys and girls. So the Taliban are citing logistical problems to resuming education for girls – mainly the lack of classrooms so that the segregation can take place. “Taliban says all Afghan girls will be back in school by March”, Aljazeera, January 17, 2022.
Female Demonstrators Pepper Sprayed. Taliban forces disrupted a group of women protesting in Kabul on Sunday, January 16th. About 20 women gathered in front of Kabul University demanding rights to work and education. The Taliban frequently break up demonstrations when they occur. “Taliban forces pepper-spray women’s rights protesters in Kabul”, The Guardian, January 16, 2022.
Aid Not Reaching Those At-Risk. A winter of discontent, desperation, and despair is setting in for those at-risk Afghans who are in hiding from the Taliban. They have lost their money, their jobs, and their homes. They are on the run from the new ruler Afghanistan who will arrest, detain, torture, and possibly kill them. These Afghans are in a ‘catch-22’. The U.S. government has offered a way to the United States for these at-risk Afghans that don’t qualify for the Special Immigrant Visa or SIV. However, it requires them to travel to a third country before they can begin the P-1 or P-2 refugee process – that would likely take 18-24 months. But the U.S. won’t help in the departure from Afghanistan and won’t support them if they make it to a third country. Thus far, the State Department has only completed 330 cases out of 11,000 referrals. And none have entered the United States. Aid is on the way to Afghanistan, but it is unlikely to reach these Afghans in hiding. Most of the international aid is going to the families and supporters of the Taliban. Susan Crabtree explains in “U.S. Aid to Afghanistan Fails to Reach Many in Hiding”, Real Clear Politics, January 18, 2022.
Turkmenistan – A Friendly Neighbor? Senior members of the Taliban regime and Turkmenistan government met on Saturday, January 15th, in a meeting that was focused on political, economic, and diplomatic relations between the two countries. Topics discussed included the TAPI pipeline, extraction of marble, and railway projects. The officials also discussed the possibility of investing in solar power projects. Another meeting is scheduled in Kabul on January 22nd. “IEA and Turkmenistan officials agree to strengthen bilateral ties”, Ariana News, January 16, 2022.
Vaccines Provided to Afghans in Iran. A couple of million doses of COVID-19 vaccine arrived in Iran. The delivery was coordinated by the European commission. Much of the delivery costs were picked up by the EU. (EC, Jan 19, 2022).
Nepal – Helping Out. The mountainous Asian nation of Nepal has sent 14 tons of humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan. The aid shipment of medicine, clothes, and other items arrived on Sunday, January 16th. The aid was delivered on a chartered flight of Himalayan Airlines. “Nepal sends humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan”, Khaama Press, January 16, 2022.
Return of the Bank ATMs? Da Afghanistan Bank released a statement saying that Automated Teller Machine (ATM) services by commercial banks will resume. “Central Bank says ATM to get operational in Afghanistan”, Ariana News, January 14, 2022. See also, “ATM Machines Reactivated in Various Afghan Provinces: Officials”, Tolo News, January 17, 2022.
Kabul Money Exchange Shut Down. The Economic Commission of the Council of Ministers of the Islamic Emirate has closed down the Boli market. The market inside Sarai Shahzada is the location where large amounts of money are exchanged. This was a location where Afghans could change afghani into dollars or Pakistani rupees. “Key Money-Exchange Market in Kabul Shut Down”, Tolo News, January 18, 2022.
Afghan Money Exchange Markets. Afghanistan has a long history on money exchange markets. Read a detailed study on this topic entitled The Money Exchange Dealers of Kabul: A Study of the Hawala System in Afghanistan, by Samuel Munzele Maimbo, The World Bank, 2003, PDF, 47 pages. Posted on the website of Penn State.
A Ghani Holdover – Serving the Taliban. Nazir Kabiri, a career technocrat and Finance Ministry official, earned his master’s degree in economics on a Fulbright scholarship 20 years ago. For much of the past decade he has been a senior finance official in the Afghan government. Today he is the deputy minister for policy at the Finance Ministry. Even more surprising, Kabiri is a Tajik – an ethnic minority that has lost almost all influence and power within the current government structure. Some observers believe the Taliban are using Kabiri as a ‘front man’. While capitalizing on his economic knowledge, financial background, and good English skills; the Taliban are able to project a ‘moderating posture’ to the western world. “Afghanistan desperately needs aid. One technocrat from the former government is key to the Taliban’s efforts”, by Pam Constable, The Washington Post, January 18, 2002.
Commentary, Analysis, and Opinion
No More Aid to Afghanistan! Anony Mee argues that the Taliban need to meet certain conditions before they receive any money from the United States for humanitarian assistance. The author says the new rulers of Afghanistan should allow foreign nations to fly in and bring out all the foreign nationals, lawful permanent residents, and at-risk Afghans that aided the U.S. and other partner nations during the 20-year-long conflict that saw NATO involvement. “No more aid to Afghanistan until we get our people out”, American Thinker, January 14, 2022.
Why Afghanistan Matters. Naheed Esar and Matthew Daniels collaborate in an opinion article on how the United States should not forgot about the people of Afghanistan who are now experiencing the terrible rule of the Taliban. They accuse the Biden administration and the rest of the D.C. community of moving on – ignoring the plight of the Afghans. They recall Dr. Martin Luther King’s message of value and dignity of all human beings and argue that this message applies to Afghans as well. “Why Afghanistan should matter to us all”, The Hill, January 17, 2022.
Photo: Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Karla Acosta, a field radio operator assigned to the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, picks clothes for an Afghan child at a clothing drive at Fort Pickett, Va., Nov. 6, 2021. Photo by Lance Cpl. Zachary Zephir.