Topics: Evacuations – no good news, DoD: DoS messed up NEO, OBL’s son visits Taliban, AAF pilots return to Afghanistan, Afghan Adjustment Act, and no safe harbor for Afghans.
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Evacuation from Afghanistan
Evacuations to U.S. – Perhaps Look Elsewhere. The run of infrequent evacuation flights from Afghanistan to Qatar on Department of State supported flights on Qatar Airways planes has likely come to an end. Or at least, at the moment, it seems that way. Since late November 2021 DoS has managed only one flight in late January. Afghan evac volunteer groups are fielding WhatsApp and Signal messages from anxious Afghans who face jail or death at the hands of the Taliban. But there is no good news to share. The Department of State has failed once again. “I’m flying missions to save Afghan allies. Why isn’t the government helping?”, The Washington Post, February 8, 2022.
“There are people in the government who still care, but politically, maybe for both parties, it’s best if this Afghanistan mess just fades away. Sure, we all taste the occasional morsels of hope. A kind word from a senator. A rumor of a bill that will pass. A back-channel discussion that support is coming. But they are rarer. They are less sweet. The doors are closing. We hear them creaking as they are slowly pushed shut. Impending doom hangs over us and our mission. We all know it.”
DoD at Odds with DoS on Kabul NEO. The Pentagon pushed for a non-combatant evacuation operation to take place months earlier in 2021 as it had realized the severity of the security situation in Afghanistan. Experienced in NEO missions, the DoD also wanted more troops to remain in Afghanistan until the mission was complete as well as keep Bagram Air Field open. But DoS resisted. “Documents reveal U.S. military’s frustration with White House, diplomats over Afghanistan evacuation”, The Washington Post, February 8, 2022.
“Senior White House and State Department officials failed to grasp the Taliban’s steady advance on Afghanistan’s capital and resisted efforts by U.S. military leaders to prepare the evacuation of embassy personnel and Afghan allies weeks before Kabul’s fall . . .”
Kabul NEO and Working With the Taliban. During the chaotic and hectic days of the non-combatant evacuation operation of August 2021 the Biden administration and the Department of State decided at the very last minute to evacuate the U.S. embassy, American citizens, lawful permanent residents and Afghans with a Special Immigrant Visa. The situation turned into a hellish nightmare for many of those trying to evacuate through the entry gates of the Kabul airport. Security was very weak in the first few days but got better as U.S. troops and other international forces flowed in by air. Afghan special operations forces that had fallen back to Kabul rather than surrender joined up with U.S. forces at the airport and began providing security. The U.S. entered into an agreement with the Taliban about airport security. Read more about the informal arrangement for airport security – “Inside the fragile partnership between US troops and Taliban fighters in Kabul”, Task & Purpose, February 9, 2022.
“We would be able to kill more of them than they could ever hope to kill of us.”Army Maj. Gen. Christopher Donahue, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division
News About Afghanistan
Troubles in EHC. Over 12,000 Afghans have been living in the Emirates Humanitarian City in the United Arab Emirates, many of them there for six months. There has been little attention paid to these Afghans by the Department of State. While over 80,000 Afghans have received Humanitarian Parole and have arrived in the U.S. from U.S. military bases in Europe and Qatar very few have come from EHC. Some arrived in the compound during the Kabul NEO when they were put on planes by U.S. military personnel and some arrived after August 31st on privately chartered aircraft by volunteer evacuation organizations. The discontent is rising as the EHC Afghans see the unfairness of their situation. The United Arab Emirates stepped up when the U.S. lily pads were overflowing with refugees and graciously accepted them – now they are feeding the Afghans, providing housing, medical care, and other services. At the same time the UAE is wondering when the United States and other nations are going to step up and assist.
U.S. Refugee Camps Closing. There are only two of the eight original refugee processing centers that remain open. The one at Fort Dix and one at Fort McCoy. Combined they have over 4,500 Afghans. It is expected that both will be closed within two weeks. Apparently the need for an Afghan refugee processing center in the states is going away. Meanwhile there are a few thousand still in the U.S. airbase in Qatar and 12,000 in the Emirates Humanitarian City. And lets not forget the thousands and thousands of Afghans with approved or pending Special Immigrant Visa left in Afghanistan. Is the Department of State and Department of Defense calling it “Mission Accomplished”?
News About Afghanistan
US Reward for ISIS-K Leader. The U.S. is offering a reward up to $10 million for information that will lead to the identification or location of ISIS-K leader Sanaullah Ghafari and for information leading to the arrest of those responsible for the August 2021 attack at Kabul airport. Thirteen servicemembers and over 170 Afghans died when an ISIS-K suicide bomber detonated his suicide vest near the Abbey Gate entrance to the Kabul airport. “U.S. offers reward for information on ISIS-K leader, Kabul airport attack”, Reuters, February 7, 2022.
OBL’s Son Visited Taliban. Since the Taliban have taken over foreign terror groups like al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) have enjoyed more freedom and increased ability to move. Osama bin Laden’s son visited the country in October for meetings with the Taliban according to a new United Nations report. (Hindustan Times, Feb 5, 2022).
Reforming the Afghan Army. The acting defense minister of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) has called on the Ulema to help reform an organize a national army. He urged clerics to support the current political system. “Mullah Yaqoob calls on Ulema to help organize and reform army”, Ariana News, February 8, 2022.
AAF Pilots Return to Afghanistan. Five Afghan air force pilots who fled Afghanistan in August 2021 have returned to the country. On August 15th many Afghan pilots flew their planes to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to escape the Taliban. “Islamic Emirates Welcomes Return of Afghan Pilots”, Tolo News, February 6, 2022.
Commentary, Analysis, and Opinion
Afghan Adjustment Act. The arrival of about 80,000 Afghans in a few short months has caused a major workload increase for the few pro bono lawyers who assist in immigration law. The vast majority of the Afghan evacuees had no legal basis for being in the United States after being evacuated from Afghanistan. They were admitted under the Humanitarian Parole program which gives them two years to seek asylum or some other type of immigration status. But achieving this ‘status’ many times requires the services of an immigration lawyer which is costly unless you wait in line for a pro bono lawyer to assist you. And that is a long wait.
With the huge backlogs of Afghan immigration and asylum cases and competent lawyers in short supply it will take years for Afghan nationals to secure a permanent future in the United States. There is a push for lawmakers to create a statutory path to citizenship for these Afghan evacuees. A legislative proposal to do this is called the Afghan Adjustment Act . . . but it is lacking the necessary support in Congress. “83,000 Afghans Made It To The US. Now They Need Lawyers”, by Marco Poggio, Law360, February 6, 2022.
No Safe Harbor. The NY Daily News has published an editorial calling on the Biden administration to lighten up on the documentation required to admit Afghans into the United States. “No Safe Harbor: The administration must reverse course on its denial of Afghan refugees”, NY Daily News, February 6, 2022.