Topics: News about Afghanistan, relocation, immigration, resettlement, humanitarian crisis, commentary, books, podcasts, events, and more.
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Relocation Flights From Kabul to Doha Suspended. Qatar is planning to suspend evacuation flights for U.S.-bound Afghan refugees while it hosts the World Cup. The move will add to a massive backlog of tens of thousands of Afghans who are trying to settle in the United States. The U.S. Department of State supported flights bring Afghans with valid passports and visas to a military camp in Qatar. At the ‘lily pad’ the Afghans undergo medical and security screening as well as a review of their documents that prove they have a ‘pathway’ to the United States. The U.S. Department of State has not released a statement thus far on the suspension of Kabul-Doha flights. It is believed that the flight suspension will be in effect during November and December 2022 and they will resume in January 2023. (NBC News, Oct 25, 2022).
Afghan Evac advocacy groups have predicted this unfortunate development for months and have pressed the State Department to develop an alternative plan. The groups have specifically asked DoS to work on a different location (Lily Pad) for the reception, housing, and processing of Afghan immigrants. Once again, DoS has failed the at-risk Afghans and the volunteers of the Afghan Evac community. No surprise there. See also “Qatar may halt Afghan refugee flights during world cup soccer tournament”, Coffee or Die Magazine, October 27, 2022.
Visa Scams. Social media is crowded with posts claiming to be able to assist Afghans in leaving Afghanistan. This includes promises of passports and visas – for a fee, of course. More than a year after the Kabul NEO of August 2021 Afghans who find themselves at-risk are desperate to leave Afghanistan. They cling to these false messages of hope that will spirit them out of the country and into a safe haven in Europe or elsewhere. Many Afghans are losing thousands of dollars to scammers selling useless and fake visas. Many find themselves stranded in neighboring countries with no means of support, no way forward to Europe or the United States, and with no legal status in the country they moved to. Read more in “Afghans targeted by surge in online smuggling and visa scams”, The New Humanitarian, October 24, 2022. See also “Afghans Wishing to Reach EU Remain a Target for Scammers”, Schengenvisa News, October 25, 2022.
Afghan Refugees to Guyana? Some reports indicate that in September 2022 United States officials met with Guyanese government officials to discuss the acceptance of Afghan refugees who failed to meet entry requirements for admission into the United States. “US has asked Guyana to accept some Afghan refugees”, Stabroek News, October 30, 2022.
Germany’s Afghan Relocation Program – Challenging. It has become increasingly difficult for Afghans to leave Afghanistan. Germany has a new plan to bring Afghans to Germany; however it will be very challenging. There are difficulties in obtaining passports and visas. Germany has admitted over 26,000 Afghans since Kabul fell and the Taliban returned to power in August 2021. “Germany’s New Program to Take in At-Risk Afghans Challenging”, Voice of America, October 22, 2022.
Biden’s to Rescue for Afghan Allies – Failure. In late 2021, as the Afghan government was falling to the Taliban, President Biden pledged to help Afghan allies relocate to the United States and safety. However, bureaucratic red tape is backlogging the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applications. “Biden’s plan to rescue Afghan allies is failing due to State Department backlog: ‘325,000 unopened emails'”, Fox News, October 24, 2022.
Canada Resettling Afghans. Two more chartered planes landed in Canada carrying Afghan citizens this past week. The Canadian government announced that it plans to resettle at least 40,000 Afghans by the end of 2023. Over 23,000 Afghans have entered the country thus far. (Khaama Press, Oct 27, 2022).
A Resettlement Victory. A team of researchers at Michigan State University had been participating in a program to train the next generation of wheat researchers in Afghanistan. That came to a screeching halt in August 2021. The team then changed into a volunteer evacuation group to get the Afghan scholars they had been working with to safety. They managed to get onto HKIA in August and found refuge in Albania. From there the made it to the United States. Read more in “MSU team celebrates Afghan refugees after helping them evacuate and resettle”, WKAR Public Media, October 24, 2022.
Afghan Women Struggle as Refugees. Thousands of Afghan women have fled Afghanistan to other countries in the region – many to Pakistan, Iran, or Turkey. They find that life is harsh as a refugee – many without any means of support and in dubious legal status. “After the Taliban: Leading Afghan women now struggle to survive as refugees”, The Star, October 23, 2022.
News About Afghanistan
Afghan SOF – Now Fighting for the Russians. Iran is host to over 5,000 members of the Afghan special operations forces (SOF) who fled Afghanistan to avoid capture, imprisonment, or death at the hands of the Taliban. When the Taliban took power in August 2021 the Afghan SOF left everything behind and are now living in neighboring countries with no job, no money, harsh living conditions, and uncertainty about their future. In Iran, some members of Afghan SOF have been recruited to join paramilitary forces fighting for the Russians in Ukraine. The Russians gaining access to knowledge of Afghan SOF, who were trained by U.S. SOF, poses a national security risk due to the fact these Afghan personnel know tactics, techniques, and procedures of U.S. SOF. See “Russia recruiting US-trained Afghan soldiers to fight in Ukraine”, New York Post, October 26, 2022. See also “Ex-Afghan Commandos Fighting for Russia in Ukraine”, The WarZone, October 26, 2022.
“The Biden administration’s failure to plan for the safe evacuation of the thousands of Afghan commandos who bravely fought alongside U.S. and NATO forces for almost 20 years is a travesty. As a result, hundreds remain trapped in Afghanistan without hope or prospects, and under threat from the Taliban. It is no surprise to learn that, in addition to being forced to seek refuge in Iran, Afghan commandos are now being recruited by Wagner to fight Russia’s unjustified war of aggression against Ukraine. This unfortunate turn of events is even further proof that thorough congressional oversight over the administration’s botched Afghanistan withdrawal is critical.”Representative Michael McCaul (R-TX), 26 October 2022.
SIGAR at Odds with DoS and USAID. The Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development have been withholding information from the Special Inspector General of Afghanistan Reconstruction. For years both organizations have cooperated fully with SIGAR; but now, under the Biden administration, there is very little information sharing. Critics see this as a way to avoid press about the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021 or the chaotic Kabul non-combatant evacuation operation of August 2021. “State, USAID rebuff requests from watchdog reviewing Afghanistan withdrawal”, The Hill, October 26, 2022.
U.S. – Taliban Talks. According to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, leader of Hizb-e-Islami, the United States and Taliban regime have been secret talks. The issues being discussed include limiting airstrikes, printing of new afghani banknotes, and increasing cash aid. The talks include high-level intelligence and security officials. “US seeking new deal with IEA: Hekmatyar”, Ariani News, October 29, 2022.
Afghan Army Now at 150,000. According to the Afghan Ministry of Defense (MoD) the Afghanistan army has grown significantly in the past several months. It is expected to increase even further. (Ariana News, Oct 28, 2022).
Life Under the Taliban
Hookahs – Not Any More. The popular pastime of gathering around a hookah for some socialization is now banned by the Taliban in Herat. It is unknown if the ban is countrywide. Apparently the hookah is considered an ‘intoxicant’ which is banned under Islam. Scores of shisha (hookah) cafes have been forced to close in Herat. “Popular Afghan Pastime Goes Up in Smoke as Taliban Bans Hookahs”, Gandhara Blog, October 25, 2022.
Escalation of Persecution of Women. The Taliban are elevating the restrictions against women in Afghanistan. It is feared that the violence will continue to increase. There are reports of a new spiral of abuses by the Taliban against women. Puberty exams and beatings are becoming commonplace. “Taliban Escalate New Abuses Against Afghan Women, Girls”, United States Institute of Peace, October 27, 2022.
Media Restrictions. The Taliban Ministry of Information and Culture has removed the women’s seat that represented women in the Media Violations Commission. Apparently, the Taliban feel that the presence of a woman is no longer needed. “Taliban Removes Women’s Seat from Commission of Media Violations”, Khaama Press, October 29, 2022.
Taliban – Moderation Not in the Future. William Bryd, a senior expert at the U.S. Institute of Peace, writes that the international community is misled if it thinks that the Taliban regime can find a path to moderation. He provides an analysis of authoritarian regimes and then examines the Taliban regime. He concludes that the U.S. and other international partners are left with limited options and levers to change Taliban behavior. The West needs to manage its expectations and attempt some modest gains in influencing the Taliban towards moderation. “Let’s Not Kid Ourselves: Afghanistan’s Taliban Regime Will Not Become More Inclusive”, Lawfare Blog, October 24, 2022.
Humanitarian Assistance and Economy
Rich Muslim States and Afghanistan. The Afghan economy has sunk since the Taliban took over the government in late 2021. International economic sanctions have made the situation even worse. The United Nations has launched its largest ever single-country appeal to alleviate the severe humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. Muslim governments are conspicuously missing on the list of major donors. For instance, the U.S. has donated over $515,000,000, while Saudi Arabia has only donated $11,000,000. “Why Don’t Rich Muslim States Give More Aid to Afghanistan?”, Voice of America, October 27, 2022.
Dollar Smuggling. The Sarai Shahzada Money Exchange Dearler Association is concerned about the increased money smuggling out of Afghanistan. It claims that it will have a detrimental effect on the already fragile Afghan economy. The withdrawal of foreign currency from the country raises the prices in the countries markets and has a negative impact on the decline of the Afghani value in relation to other foreign currencies. “Afghan Sarrafs Concerned about Increased Dollar Smuggling Out of Afghanistan”, Khaama Press, October 30, 2022.
Video – Kabul Bank Scandal. Read about the inside story of the Kabul Bank and the nearly $1 billion of money laundering and corruption that devastated Afghanistan. “Inside the billion dollar Kabul Bank crash”, Al Jazeera, YouTube, October 26, 2022, 46 minutes.
Commentary, Analysis, and Opinion
CT and OTH Strikes. President Biden tried to reassure America that despite the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan the country would not be a haven for terrorist groups. He explained his over the horizon counterterrorism concept as a remedy for those terrorists seeking refuge in a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. One Army officer, Colonel Andy Forney, believes there is a better way. “Drone Strikes Forever: The Problems with Over-the-Horizon Counterterrorism and a Better Way Forward”, Modern War Institute at West Point, October 28, 2022.
Peace – Missed Opportunities. There are, according to Masoom Stanekzai, three historic mistakes made in the decades-long peace process that has put Afghanistan back at ‘square one’ when it comes to a peaceful solution to the long-running conflict.
- The Taliban were excluded from the Bonn Conference in 2001 that produced an agreement on a post-Taliban government
- Pakistan played the role of ‘spoiler’ by supporting the Taliban for almost twenty years
- The U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 pulled attention and resources away from Afghanistan
Read more in “Missteps and Missed Opportunities for Peace in Afghanistan”, United States Institute of Peace, October 27, 2022.
‘Valley of Death’. In the mountain range in eastern Afghanistan along the Pakistan border is the Korengal region. The valley saw some of the deadliest combat during the long U.S.-involvement in the Afghan conflict. Read more in “Korengal Valley: Why the Region is Nicknamed the ‘Valley of Death'”, War History Online, October 24, 2022.
Books about Afghanistan
Photo: Afghan evacuees learn about American grocery stores during a commissary walk-through at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., Jan. 10, 2022. Photo by Army PFC Anthony Sanchez