Afghanistan News – Monday, Feb 7, 2022

SIV Application Vetting and Approval Process 20220117

Topics: News about Afghanistan, evacuation, immigration, resettlement, Special Immigrant Visa process, humanitarian crisis, crossing into Iran, DoS failures, voluntary departure off U.S. bases, Sponsor Circles, UN report, economy, money transfers, CSTs, webinar, videos, language training, humanitarian parole, Allied Extract, commentary, books, podcasts, events, and more.

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Evacuation from Afghanistan

SIV Process. The image above depicts the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) Application Vetting and Approval Process. The graphic was made by the #AfghanEvac Coalition (DOI 20220117). A larger version of the graphic is available here. Image used with permission of #AfghanEvac Coalition.

Humanitarian Parole – Not Working Very Well. Application denials on humanitarian parole requests by Afghans are sparking confusion and finger-pointing among administration officials, lawmakers, and immigration advocates. “Thousands of Afghans Face Narrow Path to Gain Entry to U.S.“, The Wall Street Journal, February 1, 2022. (subscription)

Hiding in Fear. Afghans with a past association with U.S. military forces are being targeted and killed by the Taliban. Many of these at-risk Afghans are hiding in fear – having left their homes to live with relatives, friends, or in guesthouses. Dustin Jones writes about the lives of Afghans on the run from persecution and the efforts of groups like Allied Extract who are supporting them and trying to evacuate them from Afghanistan. “The Toll of Hiding in Afghanistan”, Coffee or Die Magazine, February 2, 2022.

Crossing Into Iran – Thousands Each Day. Afghans escaping the failing economy, shortage of food, and harsh Taliban rule are turning to smugglers to get them across the border into Iran. It is a perilous journey that doesn’t always end in success. And once in Iran life is difficult, but perhaps better than starving to death in Afghanistan or getting killed by the Taliban. “Over a Million Flee as Afghanistan’s Economy Collapses”, New York Times, February 2, 2022.

DoS Evacuation Flights – Not So Smooth. Sometimes the Department of State creates its own problems. This current troubles with the evacuation of at-risk Afghans started years ago with the feeble attempts of the State Department to implement the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program. It continued with an unresponsive U.S. Embassy in Kabul placing unnecessary restrictions and obstacles in the path of Afghans with pending SIVs for several years. Successive administrations (Obama, Trump, Biden) have been less than supportive in the plight of Afghans with approved and pending SIVs. Then the last-minute attempt to evacuate AMCITs, LPRs, and at-risk Afghans with approved SIVs (foil visas) during the Kabul NEO in August 2021 failed miserably. And now the State Department has put all its eggs in one basket – with one ‘lily pad’ (Doha) and one air carrier (Qatar Airways). Read more on the Department of States failure to act in “U.S. faces snags in bid to speed up at-risk Afghan evacuations”, Reuters, February 4, 2022.

DoS Evacuation Flights. Officials from Qatar recently came to an agreement with the Taliban on the resumption of flights using Qatar Airways chartered aircraft for the evacuation of Afghans manifested by the U.S. Department of State. Since late November 2021 only two DoS supported flights have taken place. One in November and one in January. It is expected that the Department of State sanctioned and supported flights will resume shortly, at least that is what DoS is telling the Afghan evac organizations and what Afghan evac volunteers continue to tell their families in Afghanistan requesting extraction. “Qatar reaches deal with Taliban to resume evacuation flights”, Zachary Basu, Axios, February 1, 2022.

U.S. Lawmakers Call on White House for Evacuation Operations. A bipartisan group of more than 80 lawmakers have sent a letter to President Joe Biden urging him to speed up the evacuation of Afghans who aided U.S. forces. The lead author of the letter to Joe Biden, Representative Bill Keating, D-Mass, says that “We don’t want to see people in danger, families hurt because we’re not moving fast enough.” The joint letter is encouraging the administration to open more lily pads or military bases outside of Afghanistan where Afghans are brought into the evacuation process. In addition, it wants to increase the pace of processing of Afghans in these overseas lily pads. “82 lawmakers call on White House to evacuate more Afghans who helped US”, U.S. Today, February 3, 2022.

Afghan Evacuee Resettlement

A Pathway to Legal U.S. Residency. The humanitarian evacuation effort of the Afghans who fled Kabul is only half done. About 36,000 Afghans who were evacuated from their country after its collapse in August 2021 lack a direct pathway to permanent residency in the U.S. The number of Afghans in limbo is ten times the number of evacuees who had lawful permanent residency or were awarded special immigrant visas for working on behalf of the U.S. or allied forces. Read an editorial entitled “Afghans helped us. Now it’s our turn”, Tampa Bay Times, February 3, 2022.

Voluntary Departure – a Wise Choice? Some Afghans have been waiting on U.S. military bases for months for the government and resettlement organizations to resettle them in communities across the country. It is a long, frustrating wait. There are those that are exercising their right to a ‘voluntary departure’, leaving the bases without completing the in-processing and entering the official resettlement mechanism. While this gets them off the military installation the families do lose some benefits. But for some, it is a worthwhile exit. “Why Fed Up Afghan Refugees Are Leaving US Bases and Coming to SoCal”, LAist, February 1, 2022.

Seattle and Its Sponsor Circle. Employees at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) have been assisting Afghans in the resettlement process. “Port Employee and Partners Support Afghan Refugees”, Port of Seattle, February 2, 2022.

Afghans in Europe – A Life in Exile for Some. Educated elites who were evacuated to Europe after the Taliban’s return to power have been welcomed. But their life in exile is far from perfect. “Afghan Refugees Face Two-Tier System in Europe”, The New York Times, February 5, 2022.

News About Afghanistan

TB Recognition tied to Release of Mark Frerichs. A U.S. Navy veteran who was abducted in Afghanistan two years ago was working on engineering projects. The Taliban have been holding him hostage ever since. They would like to trade him for an Afghan drug kingpin who is serving a life sentence in the United States. “Biden: Taliban won’t be recognized until U.S. hostage Mark Frerichs is released”, Yahoo! News, January 30, 2022.

UN Report on Afghanistan. On January 30, 2022, the UN Security Council has released a 16-page report on the security and humanitarian situation under the Taliban regime. It explores the topics of politics, regional cooperation, human rights, coordination of donor assistance, humanitarian assistance, counter narcotics, and more.

Humanitarian Assistance and Economy

U.N. Money in Afghan Banks . . . But. Apparently the United Nations has a lot of money in Afghan banks but it can’t be converted into Afghan currency for use in its humanitarian programs. “U.N. has millions in Afghanistan bank, but cannot use it”, Reuters, February 3, 2022.

UN, Humanitarian Assistance, and Legal Status. In December 2021, the United Nations Security Council voted to adopt a resolution on Afghanistan introducing an explicit humanitarian “carve-out”. The exemption gives much-needed assurance to those organizations providing humanitarian assistance and supporting basic human needs in Afghanistan. “Carve-out in Kabul: hard won resolution lifts humanitarian roadblock in Afghanistan”, International Committee of the Red Cross, February 3, 2022.

Money Transfers from U.S. for Aid – It’s Okay. International banks can transfer money to Afghanistan for humanitarian purposes without fear of breaching sanctions on the Taliban. Aid groups are allowed to pay teachers and healthcare workers at state-run institutions without running afoul of the law. The U.S. Treasury Department offered new guidance that alleviated the concerns of those hoping to assist Afghans. “U.S. advice to banks: OK to transfer aid money to Afghanistan”, Reuters, February 2, 2022.

Commentary, Analysis, and Opinion

Joe Biden’s Afghan Failure. Leaked notes from a White House Situation Room meeting (Aug 14) the day before Kabul fell shed new light on just how unprepared the Biden administration was to evacuate Afghan nationals who’d helped the United States in its 20-year war against the Taliban. The administration seemed to be stuck in bureaucratic inertia and lacked urgency until the last minute. The National Security Council takes some hits in this news report. “Leaked document reveals Biden’s Afghan failures”, Axios, February 2, 2022.

“That so much planning, prioritizing and addressing of key questions had not been completed, even as Kabul was about to fall, underscores the absence of adequate interagency planning.”

Mark Jacobson, deputy NATO representative in Afghanistan during the Obama administration.

Why Afghanistan Fell. Jennifer Brick Murtazashvili provides a detailed explanation of how a country supported by the United States and scores of other nations as well with military and economic aid could fall to the Taliban. “The Collapse of Afghanistan”, Journal of Democracy, January 2022. Jennifer also provides more on this topic in “Afghanistan Collapse Was Not Inevitable”, Slate, February 2, 2022.

Afghanistan – Now a Pakistan Proxy. The current sad state of Afghanistan is due to many factors – among them the support over 20 years to the Taliban provided by its eastern neighbor. Now Pakistan is reaping the benefits of its victory. Amin Saikal writes on this topic in “What the US and its allies left behind in Afghanistan”, The Strategist, Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), February 3, 2022.

Non-State Actors in Afghanistan. Under the Taliban regime non-state actors like the Islamic State Khorasan, al Qaeda, and others will enjoy greater security and freedom of movement. They may be able to begin overseas operations and pose a threat to the U.S. homeland as well. Joshua White provides an explanation in “Nonstate threats in the Taliban’s Afghanistan”, Brookings Institute, February 1, 2022.

US Foreign Policy – a Guessing Game. Law students in Afghanistan are providing periodic updates on the situation in Afghanistan. They are published by the Jurist, an online legal news and commentary portal. Read “Afghanistan dispatch: US foreign policy a ‘guessing game for many in Afghanistan'”, Jurist, February 3, 2022.

Books, Reports, Podcasts, Videos, and Events

CSTs in Afghanistan. A female member of a Coalition Support Team (CST) describes her selection, training, and deployment as a member of a CST in support of U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) in Afghanistan during 2011. Cultural sensitivity towards men speaking with women presented a problem for the male-dominated SOF elements. The difficulties in communicating with half the population presented problems for intelligence gathering as well as building trust with locals. “The Untold Story of Women in Special Operations”, by Jaclyn “Jax” Scott, Special Operations Association of America, February 4, 2022.

Webinar – Afghanistan between War and Peace. The NATO Association of Canada hosted a panel discussion to reflect on the fall of the Afghan government following the U.S. withdrawal in the summer of 2021. Kathy Gannon, an AP reporter who covered Afghanistan over the past 30 years, is one of the panel participants. In addition, Dr. Kamran Bokhari, of the Newslines Institute for Strategy & Policy, is the other panel participant. January 20, 2022, one hour, YouTube.

Video Clip. “This is Afghanistan. Today you are our friend, tomorrow you are our enemy. But we will still be brothers”. Dostum to TL of SFODA “Horse Soldiers” in Afghanistan, from movie “Twelve Strong”. (one min 20 secs).

Language Training. Shahira Asadi Popal is offering online language training for beginners. There are several videos available, provided by her Afghan American Academy on YouTube>

Event – Asylum & Immigration Law Conference. This annual conference will be taking place on Zoom on February 25-26, 2022.