Topics: News about Afghanistan, evacuation and resettlement of Afghans, humanitarian crisis, commentary, books, podcasts, events, DoS flights from Kabul to Doha resume, Project Dynamo evac flight, Afghan commandos in UAE, ‘expeditated’ resettlement to U.S., Taliban’s suicide brigade, and more.
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Evacuation from Afghanistan
DoS Sanctioned Flights Resume. There are news reports that U.S. Department of State sanctioned flights utilizing charter aircraft from Qatar Airlines have resumed. These flights were conducted once or twice a week from Kabul to Doha until they were suspended two months ago due to a dispute between Taliban and Qatar officials. The Afghan evacuees are hosted at Camp As Sayliyah in Qatar where they will undergo intensive processing lasting several weeks before they are flown to the United States. CNN reports that a flight left Kabul on Wednesday. “First US evacuation flight since November leaves Afghanistan”, CNN, January 27, 2022.
Project Dynamo – Another Successful Evac Flight. Over the weekend a private volunteer Afghan Evac organization, Project Dynamo, helped 23 Afghans fly from Kabul to New York. They departed Kabul Friday morning for the United Arab Emirates and then arrived in New York on Saturday evening. This is their third successful flight. The first two were in September and December. “Civilian Group Continues to Rescue Americans Trapped in Afghanistan as Country Descends into Chaos”, National Review, January 24, 2022.
An Afghan Family’s Journey – From HKIA to Safety in Denver. An American family in Denver got pulled into the evacuation of Afghan effort in August 2021. Now they are hosting an Afghan family of four in their home. But the assistance to Afghans who assisted U.S. military forces and who remain trapped in Afghanistan continues. Gretchen Cheverton has been getting hundreds of desperate messages every single day. The Department of State’s efforts to evacuate at-risk Afghans who do meet the strict criteria for evacuation has ground to a halt over the past two months. Most of the Afghans asking for assistance do not meet the very strict requirements the Department of State has in place for evacuation. “The Afghan refugee crisis is still happening, and it’s spilling into Denver”, Denverite, January 17, 2022.
“It’s like if everyone in Auschwitz had a cell phone and your phone number and they’re pleading with you and there’s just nothing you can do. That’s the hardest part, to say over and over and over, ‘I can’t help you.'”Gretchen Cheverton, Afghan Evac volunteer, Jan 17, 2022.
Afghan Commandos Waiting in the UAE. Members of an elite Afghan special operations force that was supported by the Central Intelligence Agency are waiting for visas in the United Arab Emirates. They were among the last of the evacuated Afghans to board planes departing the Kabul airport in August 2021. During the chaos of the Kabul non-combatant evacuation operation (NEO) the CIA utilized Afghan counterterrorism squads to secure the airport perimeter and the entry gates. They are now stuck in the Emirati desert – and have been for months.
There is a disparity on the disposition of Afghan evacuees. If an Afghan boarded a military transport in August 2021 at the Kabul airport he / she went to a U.S. military base, called a ‘lily pad’, in the Middle East and were usually fast-tracked on to the United States. Most of these Afghans had no connection whatsoever with the U.S. military in Afghanistan . . . they simply were fortunate enough to be in the huge crowd that stormed the airport in the initial chaos and got on a military plane. These ‘lucky’ Afghans were quickly given Humanitarian Parole by the U.S. government.
By contrast, Afghans who boarded a non-military plane – such as charters provided by private organizations – found themselves transported to the Middle East and then taken to facilities not managed by the U.S. military. Many were placed in a UAE run compound known as Emirates Humanitarian City (EHC). At this time Humanitarian Parole has not been extended to them. A significant portion of the refugees at EHC are CIA-trained fighters and their families. Julian Barnes, Thomas Gibbons-Neff, and Charlie Savage provide a detailed account in “C.I.A.-Backed Afghan Fighters Are Still Waiting to Reach U.S.”, The New York Times, January 25, 2022.
An Afghan in Ukraine. Time for Another Evacuation? With war looming a former military translator for the Canadian forces is concerned for his family. He and his family arrived in Kyiv in August 2021 after being evacuated from Kabul by Ukrainian special forces. He was given a 15-day visa for Ukraine with the expectation that Canada would provide his family with refuge. However, he has been subjected to Canadian bureaucratic ‘red tape’. Apparently the Canadian government is in competition with the U.S. government on who can have the most bureaucratic ‘red tape’! “A former Afghan translator for the Canadian military stuck in Kyiv fears being caught in a war zone – again”, The Globe and Mail, January 24, 2022.
Afghan Evacuee Resettlement
White House – Expedited Resettlement? There may soon be a plan to accelerate the movement of Afghans from a U.S. military installation in the Middle East to the United States. The proposed plan would allow for Afghans to be screened, vetted, approved for refugee status, and placed on planes to the U.S. within 30 days of their arrival at the refugee camp in Qatar. “White House planes expedited resettlement for Afghan refugees”, Azios, January 25, 2022.
Resettlement Groups Overwhelmed. The 75,000 Afghan refugees that arrived in the United States over the past several months since the conclusion of the Kabul airlift in August 2021 has overwhelmed the staff and capacity of resettlement organizations. This means that many of the Afghans still located on military installations may spend most of the winter at these locations. “Swamped With Afghan Refugees, U.S. Appeals to Decimated Resettlement Groups”, Newsweek, January 25, 2022.
Learning the Language in Netherlands. Dutch language lessons are available for some Afghan refugees who are sheltered in Huis ter Heide, Netherlands. “In the Netherlands, Afghan Refugees Receive Language Lessons and Care”, Adventist Review, January 24, 2022.
Afghan Interpreter Now in Arkansas. A former interpreter for the U.S. military is now assisting Catholic Charities in the resettling of Afghan refugees. “Abdull” spent several years working for the military. On one patrol he was shot in the leg, requiring surgery with pins and plates and many months of rehab. During the Kabul airlift he was able to get onto the airport and then on a plane heading to the Middle East. “U.S. military interpreter out of Afghanistan, into Arkansas”, Arkansas Catholic, January 25, 2022.
Korea Helps Afghan Evacuees. A revised law on foreign residents in Korea took effect that grants Afghan evacuees administrative and financial support on par with recognized refugees. Almost 400 Afghans arrived in August 2021 during the Kabul airlift. “Revised law grants special support for Afghan evacuees”, Korea Times, January 25, 2022.
News About Afghanistan
Accounts of Afghan Embassy in US Frozen. The diplomats of the former Afghan government who work in D.C. are faced with a new problem. Their official bank accounts have been suspended. This has had an adverse impact on the embassy’s ability to conduct financial transactions – such as pay salaries, rent, and health care insurance payments. “US Bank Freezes Accounts of Afghanistan’s US Embassy”, Voice of America, January 25, 2022.
Joe Biden and Afghanistan. On April 14, 2021, President Biden announced that the U.S. would depart Afghanistan without leaving any U.S. troops behind. Along with this departure would be the cessation of U.S. airstrikes to support the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) and the leaving of thousands of foreign and U.S. contractors who ran the maintenance and logistics systems of the Afghan National Army and Afghan Air Force. Four months later, on August 15, 2021, the Afghan government collapsed and the Taliban entered Kabul. “President Joe Biden wanted out of the Afghanistan War in the worst way”, American Thinker, January 23, 2022.
Life Under the Taliban
Taliban’s Suicide Brigade. A major characteristic of terrorist groups is the use of suicide bombers to attack government, military, and civilian targets. Afghanistan has a history of the use of suicide bombings to attack civilian targets. The use of suicide bombers to attack ‘legitimate targets’ seems to always involve numbers of innocent civilian lives taken – usually bystanders or people passing by the attack point. The Taliban are engaged in a struggle with the Islamic State – Khorasan Province (IS-KP) and it is believed that the suicide bombers could be used against them. P.K. Balachandran, an Indian journalist, explores the role of suicide bombers throughout history and in Afghanistan in “Mainstreaming Suicide Bombings by Making it State Policy – Analysis”, Eurasia Review, January 23, 2022.
“Our Mujahidin who are martyrdom brigades, will be part of the army. But they will be Special Forces under the control of the Ministry of Defense. They will be used for special operations.”Zabihullah Mujahid, Taliban spokesman, January 2022.
Women’s Rights in Afghanistan. For over a century, Afghanistan’s rulers and ethnic groups have been arguing about what women should do and how they should be. Women haven’t had much to say. Efforts by past Afghan governments to protect women’s rights have always run into fierce opposition from religious tribal groups. Afghanistan is a patriarchal society, especially in rural areas. “A brief history of Afghan women’s rights”, Deutsche Welle, January 23, 2022.
LGBT Afghans Persecuted. A report published by Human Rights Watch and OutRight Action International highlights the desperate situation of LGBT Afghans. “Afghanistan: Taliban Target LGBT Afghans”, Human Rights Watch, January 26, 2022.
Education Under the Taliban. The amount of girls attending schools in Afghanistan has decreased significantly and varies from province to province. Many girls are now segregated from boys, are instructed on the proper attire to wear, and have experienced a significantly revised curriculum. Kate Clark of the Afghanistan Analysts Network has published the first of a three part series on education in Afghanistan under the Taliban regime. “Who Gets to Go to School?: What people told us about education since the Taliban took over”, AAN, January 26, 2022.
Humanitarian Assistance and Economy
TB Diverts Foreign Aid to Pay State Employees. A ‘food for work’ program where wheat is provided to workers has been used to pay the salaries of public sector workers and Taliban supporters. “Cash-strapped Taliban Uses Foreign Aid Intended for Starving Afghans to Pay State Employees”, Gandhara Blog, January 25, 2022.
Widespread Hunger. Afghanistan is in the midst of a worsening humanitarian crisis. People cannot afford to buy food. The World Food Program estimated that 95 percent of the population had insufficient food consumption. The country has experienced its worst drought in 30 years, many have lost their jobs, The economy is failing, there is very little currency in circulation, and food prices are inflated. “Afghanistan faces widespread hunger amid worsening humanitarian crisis”, The Washington Post, January 24, 2022. (subscription)
Photo: Air Force Col. Meredith Seeley walks alongside an Afghan evacuee at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, January 13, 2022. Photo by Army Pfc. Anthony Sanchez.