Topics: News about Afghanistan, evacuation and resettlement of Afghans, humanitarian crisis, commentary, books, podcasts, events, and more.
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Abandoning Afghanistan. America’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan added moral injury to military failure. But a group of soldiers, veterans, and ordinary citizens came together to try and save Afghan lives and salvage some American honor. George Packer tells us more in “Zero Responsibility”, The Atlantic, January 31, 2022.
“In those first hours and days after the fall of Kabul, thousands of people in the U.S. and across the world began to live mentally in the city and its airport. Most of them had a personal connection to Afghanistan. More Americans cared about the country than the Biden administration had accounted for in its political calculations. Most of these Americans were in their 30s or 40s—the generation that came of age with the 9/11 wars, now reaching a calamitous end. Helping Afghans escape would become a way to avoid succumbing to a sense of waste and despair and helpless rage.”George Packer, January 31, 2022, The Atlantic.
Evacuation from Afghanistan
Iran – Steady Border Traffic. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) says that over 3,000 undocumented Afghans are returning daily from neighboring Iran – many of them forced into the crossing by Iranian security forces. Over one million Afghans were deported or returned to Afghanistan from Iran in 2021. “IOM: Over 3,000 Afghans Returning Daily from Iran”, Tolo News, January 27, 2022.
Afghans Wait on Entry to United States. There are still thousands of Afghans who assisted the United States military and government in Afghanistan that remain under Taliban rule. The Department of State is moving very slowly in bringing these at-risk Afghans to safety. “Backlog of humanitarian parole visas traps American allies in Afghanistan”, The Denver Post, January 28, 2022.
Evacuation Flights Resume. A Department of State sanctioned and supported flight carrying Afghans flew from Kabul to Doha this past week. It was the first DoS flight since late November. Last weekend a private volunteer organization, Project Dynamo, successfully flew 23 Afghans out of Kabul. Representatives of Afghan evac organizations are hopeful that the evac flights will continue. “Afghan evacuation flights to resume with streamlined process”, Air Force Times, January 27, 2022.
Afghan Scientists Find Safety in Rwanda. Five scientists and their families were successfully evacuated from Afghanistan through the efforts of a team of scientists from the United States. One of the families managed to get out on a transport aircraft from the Kabul airport in August 2021. The other four got out via an evacuation flight from Mazar-e-Sharif or land routes. The scientists and families are now in Rwanda. “Safe Passage for Scientists: Evacuating Scientists and Engineers from Afghanistan”, National Academies, January 26, 2022.
Working the Kabul NEO with Team America Relief. A ‘movement coordinator’ of a volunteer Afghan evac organization explains the events of August 2021 and aftermath during the non-combatant evacuation operation. (SOF News, January 31, 2022).
Humanitarian Parole – A Broken Pathway to the U.S. Last summer, in the midst of the chaos during the Kabul non-combatant evacuation operation, the U.S. government announced that Humanitarian Parole would be used as a tool to assist Afghan evacuees in their journey to the United States. It has turned out to be a bureaucratic quagmire, an expensive option, and one that has disappointed thousands of at-risk Afghans abandoned in Afghanistan. “Tens of Thousands of Afghans Who Feld the Taliban Are Now Marooned in America’s Broken Immigration Bureaucracy”, Time, January 26, 2022.
Army Corps of Engineers and P2 Program. There were thousands of Afghans who were Afghan national contractor employees who worked under United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). They were working under USACE awarded contracts. These Afghans now need assistance with employment verification in support of a Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) or U.S. Refugee Admissions Program P2 Referral. Read more in a posted by UACE entitled “Special Immigrant Visa U.S. Refugee Admissions Program P2”.
Afghan Fashion Model? Come to America. Apparently the U.S. Department of Labor has an H-1B program for “. . . fashion models of distinguished merit and ability . . .”. If one of Afghan evac cases is part of this specialty occupation “. . . that requires the application of a body of highly specialized knowledge . . .” then she (or he?) may have a pathway to the United States.
Fulbright Scholar Program for Afghans Cancelled. The Department of State sent an email to 140 semi-finalists on Friday (28 Jan) that the Fulbright Foreign Student Program in Afghanistan has been cancelled. Last year 140 semi-finalists were picked but the program was left in limbo after the Taliban takeover of the country. There are currently more than 100 Fulbright students from Afghanistan who are already in the United States in study programs. They can continue their studies but it is unknown if the State Department will force them to return to Afghanistan. “State Department delivers crushing news to Fulbright scholar hopefuls in Afghanistan”, ABC News, January 28, 2022. (Editor’s Note: The rumor mill says that Senator Fulbright wants a word.) See also “UNICEF Urges US to Reconsider Fulbright Program for Afghans”, Tolo News, January 30, 2022.
Sign Letter to Biden and Mayorkas for Afghan Scholars. The Middle East Studies Association (MESA) is asking Americans to sign a letter addressed to President Biden and Secretary of Homeland Security Mayorkas, seeking immediate action to enable the safe and speedy relocation of Afghanistan’s students and scholars in the United States.
Afghan Evacuee Resettlement
Resettling Afghans in Legal Limbo. Over 36,000 Afghan evacuees who were or are set to be resettled in the U.S. lack a direct pathway to secure permanent legal residency. “36,000 Afghan evacuees lack pathway to permanent legal status in the U.S.”, CBS News, January 29, 2022.
Expediting The Resettlement Process. Thousands of Afghan refugees who fled the country still reside on American military bases in the United States as they await to be resettled into American communities. Thousands more are on the U.S. military base in the UAE and on the refugee camp in the United Arab Emirates (Emirate Humanitarian City). The Amir of Qatar is expected in D.C. early this week to visit the White House to discuss plans to repatriate Afghan refugees to the United States. “White House working to expediate Afghan resettlement as at least 12,500 remain on military bases”, CNBC, January 30, 2022.
“There is more work to do, which is why we are exploring a variety of innovations to streamline the resettlement process and eliminate redundancies, while maintaining the robust health and screening and vetting processes that protect our homeland and American communities.”Spokesman for the National Security Council (as explained to CNBC).
Refugee ‘Tent City’ in NM Now Empty. The last Afghan refugees have departed Holloman Air Force Base in southern New Mexico where they were temporarily housed before being resettled in communities across the United States. During the first five months after the Kabul NEO over 7,000 Afghans were housed at Aman Omid Village. The rolling average of Afghans at that location was about 4,500. “Last Afghan refugees depart Air Force base in New Mexico”, Air Force Times, January 30, 2022.
Afghan Refugees Heading to Chicago. More than 400 Afghans who fled Afghanistan last year are to be resettled in the Chicago area. English language classes and job opportunities are on the short list for these Afghans. “400 more Afghan refugees expected in Chicago next month | Housing, basic necessities needed”, ABC 7 Chicago, January 27, 2022.
Housing Shortage in D.C. for Afghans. Scores of Afghan evacuees in the Washington, D.C. region have been living in hotel rooms for months. Overwhelmed resettlement groups have been unable to find many evacuees affordable permanent homes. Children are unable to attend school, federal work authorization documents and Social Security numbers have not arrived, and benefits will soon run out. It is difficult for resettlement case workers to find a landlord willing to rent an apartment to a family without income, job, rental history, credit cards, or Social Security number. “Stuck without housing, Afghan evacuees languish inside D.C.-area hotel rooms”, The Washington Post, January 29, 2022.
Resettlement in Tampa. One Afghan family describes the joy of coming to America but also the challenges of finding a permanent home and adjusting to their new life. A severe shortage of affordable housing across the nation is also a problem in the Tampa area as well. “Housing crisis keeps children of Afghan refugees out of Tampa Bay schools”, ABC Action News, January 27, 2022.
Afghan Refugees Heading to Bay State. The International Institute of New England has been very involved in the resettlement of Afghan refugees. The non-profit organization said that initially it the state was expected to receive about 1,000 Afghan refugees, but that more are now on the way. “Massachusetts to host 2,000 Afghans, double expected amount”, Boston Herald, January 24, 2022.
News About Afghanistan
Mark Frerichs – Two Years in Captivity. January 31, 2022 marks two years since a U.S. Navy veteran has been taken hostage. Mark Frerichs is a civil engineer who was helping with construction projects for the benefit of the Afghan people when he was taken captive. He remains held hostage by the Taliban and its affiliates. The release of Frerich is among the core, non-negotiable priorities of the U.S. government. “Mark Frerichs’ Second Year of Captivity in Afghanistan”, Department of State, January 30, 2022. Read more in “Biden calls on Taliban to release American hostage”, Reuters, January 30, 2022.
TB Continues to Kill Former Afghan Officials. According to a United Nations report the Taliban are killing scores of former Afghan officials, members of the Afghan National Security and Defense Forces, and people who worked with the international military contingent. “U.N. report says Taliban have killed scores of former Afghan officials, others”, Reuters, January 30, 2022.
Ethnic Clashes in North. Tensions are building between ethnic Uzbek, Turkmen, and Tajik communities in parts of northern Afghanistan and the mainly Pashtun Taliban fighters who have moved into the area in recent months. There are reports of guerrilla bands believed to be part of the National Resistance Front (NRF) fighting Taliban forces in Baghlan, Balkh, Badakhshan, and Faryab provinces. The Islamic State of Khorasan (ISK) has been active in northern Afghanistan as well. “Taliban’s Arrest of Ethnic Uzbek Commander Sparks Clashes in Northern Afghanistan”, Radio Free Europe, January 29, 2022.
Kabul Airport – New Management? Qatar, Turkey, and the Taliban have reportedly agreed on several key issues related to the management and operation of the Kabul airport. Talks on this topic have been taking place in Doha and Kabul. Both Turkey and Qatar have agreed to jointly operate the airport in an equal partnership between Turkish and Qatari companies. “Qatar, Turkiye, IED agree on ‘several key issues’ to run Kabul airport”, Ariana News, January 28, 2022. See also “Afghan Civilian and Military Airports Resume Activities”, Tolo News, January 29, 2022.
Water – From Afghanistan to Iran. Disputes between Iran and Afghanistan over the water that flows from Afghanistan’s mountain region onto the western plains of Afghanistan are decades old. However, the release of water from Afghan dams could alleviate water shortages in Iran. The Taliban could benefit from improved relations with Iran and greater economic benefits as well. “In Sign of Deepening Ties, Taliban Increases Afghanistan’s Water Flow to Iran”, Gandhara Blog, January 26, 2022.
Water Rights and Iran. There are tensions between Iran and Afghanistan over the Helmand water rights that ebb and flow over time. Rallies by Iranian citizens on the Iran side of the border have been protesting the limited flow of water from Afghanistan’s vast mountain range into the rivers that flow into Iran. “Iran-Afghanistan Tension Over Kamal-Khan Dam”, Hasht e Subh Daily, January 30, 2022.
Life Under the Taliban
Restrictions on the Media. The Islamic Emirate prevented the Afghanistan Federation of Journalist and Media from holding a press conference over concerns about the status of the media in Afghanistan. Based on statistics, over 43 percent of media activities have been halted and 60 percent of media employees have become jobless since August 2021. “Media Federation Prevented From Holding Press Conference”, Tolo News, January 27, 2022. See also “UN, Amnesty Decry Latest Taliban Crackdown on Afghan Journalism”, Voice of America, January 27, 2022.
Electricity – Shortages Persist. A lack of electricity has affected the quality of life of Afghans as well as businesses that have seen their operations disrupted. Afghanistan imports a great amount of electricity from neighboring countries – including Uzbekistan and other Central Asian states. “Uzbekistan-Sourced Power Cut Off Due to Technical Issues Abroad”, Tolo News, January 28, 2022.
Public Universities to Reopen . . . But. Afghanistan’s public universities, closed since August when the Taliban took power, will reopen in February. “Taliban to reopen public universities, no word on female students”, Reuters, January 30, 2022.
Humanitarian Crisis and Economy
Hunger and Death. Sanctions by the United States and other countries imposed against the Taliban regime has contributed to a failing economy, unemployment, and lack of adequate medical services. Many citizens in Afghanistan are malnourished – and this is having a drastic effect on expectant mothers. “As Hunger Spreads in Afghanistan, Hospitals Fill With Premature, Dying Babies”, The Wall Street Journal, January 28, 2022, (subscription).
‘Horrific Situation’ – WFP Chief. David Beasley, the head of the United Nation’s World Food Program, says that Afghanistan is facing a catastrophic situation. He is calling on the world’s richest nations to help avert the humanitarian crisis. Although Western military forces have left Afghanistan many charities and aid groups have remained to continue their support to Afghans. Beasley says the Taliban have been cooperative with the WFP and that ‘access’ isn’t a problem. The main obstacle is lack of funding to conduct operations. “WFP chief Beasley: Situation in Afghanistan ‘horrific'”, Deutsche Welle, January 28, 2022.
World Food Programme and CBTs. The WFP is scaling up to provide more than 23 million Afghans with cash and voucher assistance in 2022 for food. Most food markets are functional in Afghanistan; however a high number of families are affected by unemployment and local food price inflation. The WFP will use a variety of cash-based transfers to get this aid to the Afghan people. Read more in “Cash-Based Transfers in Afghanistan”, World Food Programme, January 2022.
Central Asian Aid Working Group. India and five Central Asian countries have decided to set up a joint group for providing aid to Afghanistan and to tackle the humanitarian crisis and the issue of recognition of the Taliban. India hosted the meeting with representatives of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. A similar (virtual) conference was conducted by China with Central Asian states on the same topics. China and India are jockeying for influence in the Central Asian region. “India, Central Asian leaders discuss aid to Afghanistan”, ABC News, January 27, 2022.
Extracting Minerals – a Difficult Endeavor. Various news reports over the years have made mention of the vast amount of precious stones and minerals under the surface of Afghanistan. It has always been a hope for future prosperity for the impoverished country. Despite greater security since the takeover of the Taliban the mining industry is still experiencing obstacles. “The Difficulties of Extracting Afghanistan’s Hidden Mineral Treasures”, by Franz J. Marty, The Diplomat, January 28, 2022.
Commentary, Analysis, and Opinion
UNAMA – New Mandate Needed. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan was established in 2002 after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. UNAMA has stayed in place even after the Western powers have withdrawn their troops this past summer. The organization’s mandate is up for reconsideration on March 17th and UN Security Council members agree that the mission should continue. Ashish Pradhan and Graeme Smith discuss how the UN Security Council could update the list of UNAMA responsibilities now that the Taliban are back in charge. “Toward a New Mandate for the UN Mission in Afghanistan”, International Crisis Group, January 28, 2022.
ISK Resurgence. The Islamic State Khorasan (ISK) first emerged in Afghanistan in 2015. The withdrawal of U.S. forces and collapse of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) have presented new opportunities for the Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan. Read more in “The Islamic State Threat in Taliban Afghanistan: Tracing the Resurgence of Islamic State Khorasan”, CTC Sentinel, Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, January 2022, PDF, 13 pages.
Lessons From Afghanistan. If one thing is to be learned from the failure in Afghanistan it should be that the U.S. needs to be judicious about the extent of its involvement in future small wars, the terms of support, and who it partners with. “The End of Illusions? Lessons from Afghanistan”, Small Wars Journal, January 28, 2022.
Talking to the Taliban? James Durso thinks that Washington’s priorities of a satisfactory (to the U.S.) representative government, and its desires for Afghan women and girls should take a back seat to averting a humanitarian catastrophe this winter. “Is it Time for the U.S. to Engage with the Taliban?”, Second Line of Defense, January 30, 2022.
Books, Reports, Podcasts, Videos, and Events
Webinar – Resettlement 101. The topics include the history of refugee resettlement in the U.S. basic definitions / terms, community engagement, and veteran outreach / engagement. This webinar is presented by the organizations of the #AfghanEvac and Evacuate Our Allies coalitions.
Monday, 31 January from 8 pm to 9 pm ET
Resettlement 101 Webinar Sign Up
Top Image courtesy of Mohammad Maisam Sultani. M.M.S. @forestsparkles on Twitter.