Topics: News about Afghanistan, evacuation of AMCITs, LPRs, and at-risk Afghans, helicopters flown to Central Asian states, humanitarian parole (not working), TB calls for diplomatic recognition, media interference, Afghan refugees in Iran, U.S. humanitarian assistance, crypto currency to survive, weapons left behind, events, . . . . . and more.
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Evacuation from Afghanistan
Afghan Helicopters. In mid-August, with the Taliban takeover of Kabul, Afghan pilots flew some of the helicopters of the Afghan Air Force (AAF) to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Now the Taliban wants them back. Pentagon press spokesman John Kirby was asked in a press conference on Tuesday, January 18th about where the Pentagon thinks the aircraft should go. KIrby said that “. . . it’s safe to assume that they will not be sent into Afghanistan . . .” but that the DoD is still working through that decision-making process.
Canadian Law Firm Assisting Afghans. One of Canada’s largest law firms is advocating to a group of beleaguered lawyers and legal professionals in Afghanistan. “Canadian Law Firm Partners Help Afghan Lawyers Fee Taliban”, Jurist, January 20, 2022.
UK Evacuating 250 Afghans a Week. Hundreds of Afghans are arriving in the United Kingdom each week, most coming from flights out of Pakistan. The Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) has already settled thousands of Afghans who have worked with the UK government and military in Afghanistan. The ARAP scheme, launched in April 2021, will continue indefinitely – hosting ‘Locally Employed Staff (LES) who are determined to be at risk if staying in Afghanistan. The UK is also conducting the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS) – which began in January 2022. Working with the UNHCR, the UK will resettle more than 20,000 Afghans in the coming years. During August 2021 about 600 UK military personnel evacuated more than 15,000 people from the Kabul airport. (Nation.lk, Jan 19, 2022)
Humanitarian Parole – An Afghan’s Story. Lindsay Harris, a Professor of Law at the University of the District of Columbia, relates the story of an Afghan who served as an interpreter with the U.S. military in Afghanistan. He now lives in the United States, having been given a Special Immigrant Visa, and is trying to get his wife to safety and to the U.S. via a Humanitarian Parole application. But the process is long and frustrating. Read “This Should Be Written by Someone Else”, Think Immigration, January 18, 2022.
Australia – Failing in the Task at Hand. The Australian government has been taking some heat for its reluctance to take in Afghans who assisted its military forces in Afghanistan. So it appears it is taking some corrective action. “Australia opens more places for Afghan refugees after scathing report”, The Sydney Morning Herald, January 21, 2022. See also “Australia: Ex-Afghan Interpreters Left Behind in Afghanistan at Risk of Brutal Reprisals”, Republic World, January 21, 2022.
Kabul Airport Deal. Qatar and Turkey are continuing their discussion on a deal where the two nations would assist the Taliban in the running of the Kabul airport. It is expected that an agreement will be reached soon. (Reuters, Jan 20, 2022).
UA Pilot Assists in Evacuation. An Afghan boy fled Afghanistan with his family when the Soviets invaded. He is now a pilot for United Airlines and participated in the Civil Reserve Air Fleet flights taking Afghan evacuees to the United States. United flew about 8,500 passengers on over 60 international and domestic flights since August 2022. “Pilot who fled Afghanistan as a boy helps fly more than 1,000 refugees to the U.S. decades later”, CBS News, January 20, 2022.
SIV Info. There is quite a lot of confusion and questions about the Special Immigrant Visas that are available for those Afghans who assisted and supported the U.S. military and other U.S. government organizations in Afghanistan during the U.S. involvement in the Afghan conflict. Two sources of info on the SIV process can be found at the U.S. Department of State webpage on SIVs and the the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) webpage on SIVs.
Moral Compass Federation. Over 2,000 members of the Afghan Special Operations Forces made it to the U.S. on evacuation flights and about 150 Afghan pilots escaped to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. However, more than 20,000 special operations forces and their families remain trapped in Afghanistan. They are now targets of the Taliban. the Moral Compass Federation is focused solely on the needs of the American and Afghan veterans and their families. It is an umbrella group for 16 SOF focused non-profit organizations working to keep the nations promise to Afghan partners and allies. “Veterans helping Afghan veterans, allies after withdrawal”, Military Times, January 23, 2022.
Afghan Evacuee Resettlement
TF Quantico – Accountability Problems with Afghan Evacuees. For the most part, the Marines did a fine job at Marine Corp Base Quantico when it hosted and supported almost 4,000 Afghan evacuees who were flown out of the Kabul airport in August 2021 during the non-combatant evacuation operation. As always, there are some things that go wrong or could have been done better in a hastily-conceived and conducted large-scale operation. A recent DoD Inspector General report on the support provided to Afghan evacuees at MCB Quantico identified a few shortcomings while concluding the overall operation was a success. “Marines didn’t properly track Afghan evacuees at Quantico, Virginia”, by Todd South, Marine Corps Times, January 18, 2022.
Afghans in Kosovo. There are still a little less than one hundred Afghan evacuees held at a U.S. military base in Kosovo. Their cases are in limbo as they are still undergoing security vetting at Camp Bondsteel. (The Wall Street Journal, Jan 20, 2022).
Stranded in UAE. An American citizen has been neglected in ‘Humanitarian City’ in the United Arab Emirates since October. The U.S. Department of State has utterly failed in addressing his case. Ryan Mills describes the predicament of the Afghan turned U.S. citizen. “American Citizen Stranded in UAE with Pregnant Wife after Botched Afghanistan Evacuation”, National Review, January 19, 2022.
Life Under the Taliban
Afghan PM – Call for Diplomatic Recognition. Mullah Hasan Akhund, the acting prime minister of Afghanistan, is saying that international governments should officially recognize the Taliban regime. He also called for a loosening of restrictions on money going into Afghanistan – blaming the economic crisis on the freezing of funds. “Afghan acting PM calls for diplomatic recognition of Taliban”, Aljazeera, January 19, 2022.
Media Interference? Not Happening According to TB. A spokesman of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) stated that the Taliban has no policy of interfering with the media. He was responding to accusations by the Free Speech Hub, a media-supporting organization in Afghanistan, that Afghan journalists face systematic censorship. “Islamic Emirate Denies Reports of Interfering With Media”, Tolo News, January 18, 2022.
Tough Life for Christians. An organization that tracks global religious persecution has published its 2022 World Watch List ranking the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. Afghanistan sits at the top of that list. (BlazeMedia, Jan 20, 2022).
The Sikhs Dilemma. As little as 140 Sikhs remain in Afghanistan – most in Kabul and Jalalabad. The small number is vastly different than the over 100,000 who lived in Afghanistan in the 1970s. Decades of conflict, poverty, and intolerance have driven most into exile. Since the Taliban takeover India has offered Sikhs priority visas and the opportunity for long-term residency. “Afghanistan’s last Sikhs in a dilemma: To stay or leave”, Aljazeera, January 20, 2022.
Humanitarian Assistance and Economy
UK: Aid to Afghan Refugees in Iran. The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) in Iran has received a one million pound contribution from the United Kingdom to support new arrivals from Afghanistan with meals. The aid can also be used for over 31,000 refugees who are already living in 20 settlements across Iran. Over 23 million people in Afghanistan are threatened with food insecurity and many find their way to Iran to find relief. “UK contributes One Million Pounds to support Afghan refugees in Iran”, Ariana News, January 18, 2022.
U.S. Assistance – Removing Obstacles. David Ignatius reports on how the Biden administration is removing barriers that prevent the United States from providing needed humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan. The United States will support a World Bank plan for a “humanitarian exchange facility” to ease the liquidity crisis that has prevented the Afghan government to pay teachers, doctors, and humanitarian workers. Assisting the Afghans is a complicated process because of the large amount of legal regulations imposed by sanctions against the Taliban. The “humanitarian exchange facility” will allow donors to convert their dollars and euros into the local currency to pay doctors, nurses, aid workers, and others who are important to the social safety net of Afghanistan. “How the U.S. is helping vulnerable Afghans without recognizing the Taliban”, The Washington Post, January 18, 2022.
Norway Talks. Three days of talks will take place in Oslo on the Afghan humanitarian crisis from January 23 to 25. Diplomats from several countries will attend. “Taliban delegation due in Norway for humanitarian talks”, Reuters, January 21, 2022.
Crypto Currency to Survive. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) looking to provide emergency aid to Afghanistan despite failing banks and U.S. sanctions are turning to cryptocurrency. Many U.S. banking institutions are refusing to send money to Afghanistan – worried about being penalized for violating currency sanctions imposed by the U.S. government against the Taliban. Lee Fang, a journalist who covers financial topics, explains in great detail on how crypto currency is used to help destitute Afghans in “Starving Afghans use Crypto to Sidestep U.S. Sanctions, Failing Banks, and the Taliban”, The Intercept, January 19, 2022. See also “NGOs Use Crypto to Aid Afghans Facing Taliban Takeover”, BITCOINIST.com, January 20, 2022.
More Afghan News
Weapons Left Behind. Republican senators are pressing the Biden administration to comply with deadlines to report on the weapons and equipment provided to the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police that have been captured by the Taliban. It also stipulated that an accounting was to be made on the disposition of United States property, equipment, and supplies during the withdrawal. “GOP lawmakers press administration on US weapons left behind in Afghanistan”, The Hill, January 18, 2022.
EU Opens Embassy in Kabul. The European Union has opened a diplomatic office in Afghanistan. While it isn’t official recognition it does allow some countries to conduct consular services in Afghanistan. “EU reopens embassy in Afghanistan”, Khaama Press, January 21, 2022. See also “EU Says It Will Establish ‘Minimal’ Presence in Afghanistan After Five-Month Hitatus”, Gandhara Blog, January 21, 2022.
Ex-Afghan Helicopters to Ukraine? The U.S. and its allies are sending equipment to Ukraine to bolster its defenses against a possible Russian invasion. Some Afghan helicopters may be headed that way. There are seven Mi-17s and 17 MD 530F Little Bird helicopters at the U.S. Air Force’s aircraft boneyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. (The Warzone, January 20, 2022).
Commentary, Analysis, and Opinion
U.S. Military Suicides and the Afghan Debacle. There were fears that as the collapse of Afghanistan took place last summer and the subsequent failure of the U.S. government to evacuate at-risk Afghans who worked for the U.S. military in Afghanistan that veteran and active members of the U.S. military would turn to suicide. Many predicted that the mental health of this population was a greater risk as they reconciled their years of sacrifice in Afghanistan with the fall of the Afghan government to the Taliban. Apparently, according to an initial analysis of raw data, this steep increase in suicides did not happen. “Feared Increase in Suicides Among Troops After Afghanistan Exit Hasn’t Materialized”, by Patricia Kime, Military.com, January 18, 2022.
Afghans Starve – Democrats Dicker. While congressional Democrats argue over conditions for relief, some 20 million Afghan people stand to starve. Ryan Grim and Sara Sirota explain the details in the various schemes advanced by Democrats (and some Republicans) to authorize the release of funds to Afghanistan. “Democrats Dicker in Congress as Biden Flirts with Afghan Genocide”, The Intercept, January 19, 2022.
Ghor Province – A Study of What Went Wrong in Afghanistan. Many outside observers point to the United States and other western nations withdrawing their forces as the reason Afghanistan fell to the Taliban. Some say that President Ghani was at fault for departing Kabul in mid-August 2021. There are a number of reasons the Taliban came to power. Ben Acheson spent seven years in Afghanistan and he argues that looking at the security situation in Ghor province would help to explain what was happening across Afghanistan the past two decades. He argues that Ghor can be viewed as a microcosm of the layered complexity of Afghanistan. Acheson also says that the Taliban rule will be challenged with these same complexities in the future. “Murky Militias in Forgotten Provinces Reveal Why Afghanistan War Isn’t Over”, The Diplomat, January 20, 2022.
Books, Reports, Podcasts, and Videos
Event – Women’s Role in the Future of Afghanistan. The Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center and US-Afghan Women’s Council hosted a conversation on the critical role of Afghan women in Afghanistan’s future. This YouTube presentation took place on Wednesday, January 19, 2022.
Event – Lessons from Afghanistan: The Future of German International Engagement, American Institute for Contemporary German Studies, Johns Hopkins University. This event took place on Wednesday, January 19, 2022. Webinar took place on Zoom.
Report – Dealing with a Taliban-Controlled Afghanistan. Lisa Curtis of the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) has published a report that provides recommendations on how to support the Afghan people without legitimizing the regime. Her topics include humanitarian relief, security, diplomacy, human rights, evacuations of at-risk Afghans, and more. Read online or download here, PDF, 26 pages. A panel discussion by CNAS about the report will take place on January 25th.
Photo: Air Force Col. Meredith Seeley, Task Force Holloman vice commander, plays with Afghan evacuees at Aman Omid Village on Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., Jan 13, 2022. Photo by Army PFC Anthony Sanchez.