News, analysis, and commentary on Afghanistan, Taliban, humanitarian crisis, governance, economy, and security. Taliban house searches, Fulbright Scholars, DoS flights, resettlement, humanitarian parole, Afghan Adjustment Act, Temporary Protected Status, and more.
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Leaving Afghanistan, Left Behind
DoS Flights. Department of State sponsored flights remain stalled, with 78,000 SIV applicants still awaiting evacuation. The last one from Kabul took place on January 26th; the one before that in late November. If and when flights do resume, the expedited processing hub at the Doha, Qatar lily pad will be based in Camp As Sayliyah.
Passports in Kabul. The General Directorate of Passports said that it will resume the processing of passports in Kabul on Monday (Mar 14). About 300 passports are expected to be processed each day. (Tolo News, Mar 13, 2022).
Report – The Left Behind Afghans. The Association of Wartime Allies (AWA) has been an advocate organization for Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) eligible individuals since 2019. Since the US withdrawal from Afghanistan on August 31, 2021, the situation of those Afghans AWA has been assisting has become increasingly and perilously desperate. The AWA has found through research and surveys that of the estimated 81,000 SIV applicants in Afghanistan with visa applications pending as of August 15, 2021 (the day Kabul fell), 78,000 remain left behind. Read more in a comprehensive report on this topic entitled The Left Behind Afghans, Association of Wartime Allies, February 2022, PDF, 8 pages.
Volunteers and Afghan Evac
Volunteers and Afghan Evac. Although it has been six months since the fall of the Afghan government and taking of power by the Taliban, some U.S. veteran organizations are still in the struggle to keep their Afghan partners alive with hopes of relocating them to the United States.
Moral Compass Federation – Continuing the Mission. Thousands upon thousands of combat interpreters and other Afghans who worked for or with the U.S. military are being persecuted – and some hunted down and killed. The opportunities for escape from Afghanistan have almost ceased. Yet there are still volunteer organizations like the Moral Compass Federation that are continuing the work to support and work toward the relocation of these vulnerable Afghans. “With All Eyes on Ukraine, the Situation in Afghanistan Worsens”, LinkedIn, March 20, 2022.
Afghans and Red Tape. Over 70,000 Afghans who worked with or for the United States military or other governmental organizations are stuck in Afghanistan. The ability to depart that troubled country is almost non-existent for most of them. U.S. government red tape is the primary culprit. But volunteer organizations like Operation Recovery and Exodus Relief are still fighting the fight to keep them alive and to try and find ways to get them to the U.S. “Afghans Battle Red Tape, Taliban in Hope of Evacuation to United States”, Gandhara Blog, March 14, 2022.
GIS, Messaging, and Afghan Evac. Hundreds of volunteers joined up with others and established informal groups to assist Afghan interpreters and others onto the Kabul airport during the non-combatant evacuation operation (NEO) in August 2021. The use of mapping applications assisted these volunteers to guide desperate Afghans past Taliban checkpoints and through points of entry onto the Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA). In the months after the mapping utilities continued to provide situational awareness to the volunteer groups. Read more in “Offering Hope to Those Left Behind in Afghanistan”, ArcUser, Winter 2022.
Humanitarian City in UAE– A US diplomat visited EHC and apologized to the Afghans who had previously been protesting the long delays in processing the 10,000 Afghans waiting there. About 2,500 of the Afghans in the Emirate Humanitarian City are former members of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Pursuit Teams or “Zero” Units. “US diplomat apologizes to thousands of Afghans stuck in UAE“, AP News, March 4, 2022.
TPS Designation. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has designated Afghanistan for Temporary Protected Status (TPS). The measure provides temporary protection and work authorization to Afghans present in the United States for a duration of 18 months. Many members of the immigration and Afghan Evac community called on the administration to designate Afghanistan for Temporary Protected Status last fall. The program does not provide a path to a green card (Lawful Permanent Resident) or to U.S. citizenship. See “Secretary Mayorkas Designates Afghanistan for Temporary Protected Status”, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), March 16, 2022.
Afghan Resettlement . In late February, the last Afghan refugees evacuated during the August 2021 non-combatant operation (NEO) were resettled in a U.S. community. They left Fort Dix, the last remaining of eight US military installations where Afghans were housed upon arrival to the United States.
Afghan Fulbright Scholars. 100 Afghan students who were awarded the Fulbright scholarship remain in limbo. Many of the Fulbright scholars are Afghans who previously occupied civil service positions in the Afghan government. All scholars are at elevated risk due to Taliban policies and practices. Those faculty, students, and alumni associated with American-linked institutions, such as the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF), the National Military Academy of Afghanistan, and the Fulbright scholars remain highly visible targets for persecution.
Humanitarian Parole. Most Afghans who were evacuated from Afghanistan and who are now in the United States have been granted Humanitarian Parole – which provides them protected status for up to two years. In excess of 70,000 Afghans that were evacuated in August 2022 received Humanitarian Parole. Since then, very few, perhaps 100 or more have received Humanitarian Parole status. Immigrant advocacy groups continue to push for the passage of the Afghan Adjustment Act and for the continuation of evacuation efforts of those at-risk Afghans left behind.
News About Afghanistan
Afghan Embassy in U.S. – Shut Down. The Afghan embassy and consulates in the United States have been closed and the property of the embassy, including equipment and documents, were handed over to the U.S. Department of State. Financial challenges were the cause of the shutdown. “Afghan Embassy in US Closes, Property Handed Over”, Tolo News, March 18, 2022. A letter from the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs to nine embassies has dismissed cultural attaches at Afghan embassies in Russia, the UAE, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Tajikistan, Germany, India, and the United States. “Kabul Dismisses Cultural Attaches in 9 Afghan Embassies”, Tolo News, March 14, 2022.
Visa Fraud. A Florida man has been arrested on charges related to an alleged bribery scheme involving special visas for Afghan nationals. He was paid to draft, submit, or falsely verify letters of recommendation for citizens of Afghanistan who applied for Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs). “U.S. Navy Reserves Officer Appeared on Charges of Alleged Bribery and Visa Fraud,” U.S. Department of Justice, March 11, 2022.
New UNAMA Mandate. The United Nations Security Council approved a mandate on Thursday (Mar 17) for its political mission in Afghanistan to continue. The mandate authorizes the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) to promote gender equality, empowerment of women and girls, human rights of all Afghans, and an inclusive and representative government. The votes was 14-0 with Russia abstaining. “UN’s new Afghanistan mandate focuses on equality, inclusion”, The Washington Post, March 17, 2022.
ISIS-K Growing. General McKenzie, the head of U.S. Central Command, says that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria – Khorasan (ISIS-K) is reconstituting itself and will be able to conduct attacks out of Afghanistan in 12 to 18 months. (The Khaama Press News Agency, Mar 16, 2022). McKenzie said that the U.S. has not launched any strikes in Afghanistan since the last aircraft departed Kabul on August 31, 2021. He says that ISIS-K will likely begin conducting more attacks as winter subsides and the warmer weather approaches. “U.S. less effective at countering terrorist strikes in Afghanistan and Somalia since troop withdrawal, generals warn”, The Washington Post, March 15, 2022.
Afghanistan Departures and House Searches. During the past month in Afghanistan, the Taliban made a series of press releases which they coupled with a campaign of “cleansing”. In the first press release, the spokesman said that essentially no one could leave the country. Within two days, this was walked back with the clarifications- the second press release clarified that no one could leave without valid passports and that the “cleansing” raids were to search for weapons caches. During the raids, unconfirmed reports of passports being torn or taken away emerged, and the raids in Kabul and outlying areas are still in progress. Some districts are searched repeatedly. The searches by the Taliban are happening on a continuous basis.
Food and Jobs in Short Supply. The World Bank is reporting that more Afghans are going hungry and that employment opportunities are scarce. The number of people in Afghanistan who cannot afford food and other essentials has doubled since the Taliban takeover of the county in August 2021. Wages have fallen and unemployment has risen. Foreign funds that were provided to the Afghan government to run the country’s healthcare system before the Taliban takeover have dried up. The public hospitals have collapsed. Afghanistan’s children are malnourished as the hospitals have closed or shut down most operations. (BBC News, Mar 19, 2022).
Living in a Collapsed Economy. A report by the Afghanistan Analysts Network provides an in-depth look at the poverty, shortage of food, and desperate situation of the Afghan people. “Living in a Collapsed Economy: Surviving poverty, food insecurity, and the harsh winter”, AAN, March 13, 2022.
Girls Returning to School? The Taliban ban on secondary school education may soon be lifted. Girls could be back in class by Wednesday (Mar 23). See “Afghanistan: Girls return to school amidst hope and fear“, BBC News, March 21, 2022.
TAPI Pipeline. The Taliban say that negotiations over technical issues of the TAPI pipeline project have been held and that the project will resume in the spring. If this ever gets some traction it will provide thousands of jobs for Afghans. The project has been in the making for three decades but never really started because of the constant conflict in Afghanistan. When finished, it will move natural gas from Turkmenistan, through Afghanistan, Pakistan, and end in India. “TAPI Pipeline to Resume in Spring: MoFA”, Tolo News, March 18, 2022.
Mes Aynak Copper Mine. China is negotiating with the Taliban government to resuming work at a mine that has been dormant for years because of the security situation. Learn more about the Mes Aynak copper mine.
Humanitarian Crisis and Assistance
Principled U.S. Assistance. Annie Pforzheimer and Jeffrey Crieco outline measures the United States can take to alleviate the humanitarian crisis facing Afghanistan and to also pressure the Taliban to protect and adhere to their human rights obligations. They argue that the U.S. should attempt to establish a more viable market-based economy and a robust social services sector with independence from direct Taliban control. “A Principled and Implementable Path for American Assistance in Afghanistan”, Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS), March 16, 2022.
Reshaping U.S. Aid. Anthony H. Cordsman of the Center for Strategic Analysis paints a dire picture of the current humanitarian crisis. He outlines the impact that financial aid could have on the immediate crisis and over the longer term for the Afghan economy. His assessment is grim. He does present some options in this long and detailed analysis in “Reshaping U.S. Aid to Afghanistan: The Challenge of Lasting Progress”, CSIS, February 23, 2022.
Photo: Evacuees from Afghanistan board a United States bound U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III, at Naval Station (NAVSTA) Rota, Sept. 1, 2021. NAVSTA Rota is supporting the Department of State mission to facilitate the safe relocation of U.S. citizens, Special Immigration Visa recipients, and vulnerable populations from Afghanistan. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Nathan Carpenter)