Topics: News about Afghanistan, relocation, immigration, resettlement, humanitarian crisis, commentary, books, podcasts, events, and more.
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Botched Withdrawal Exploited by China. In November 2022 the U.S. Department of Defense released a 196-page document entitled Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China. It is the 2022 annual report to Congress required by the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2000. The report indicates that China used the botched withdrawal of the United States from Afghanistan in 2021 to criticize U.S.-backed security partnerships with other nations. China advanced the notion that the U.S. “is an unreliable partner and declining power.” Some media outlets took the opportunity to publish articles on this topic and put John Kirby, the National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications, in the position to downplay the reports findings.
Fake LoRs and Prison. A U.S. Navy reserve office has been indicted for his association with over 20 false Letters of Recommendations for Afghan Special Immigrant Visa applicants. (SIGAR, Nov 29, 2022).
High Air Fares. The price for air flight tickets to Doha and Islamabad have increased significantly. Some reports say this is because of the surge in worldwide oil prices. There has been a significant drop in international travel around the world. “Kabul Residents Complain of High Prices of Intl Airfare”, Tolo News, November 27, 2022.
Afghans Stuck in Albania. Took the Wrong Plane Out of Kabul. At the time, it didn’t seem to be an important consideration on which plane you were loaded onto during the Kabul NEO of August 2021. The important thing was you got onto a plane. But a year later there are many Afghans who have discovered they got on the wrong plane – do to the strict ‘rules of status’ of the U.S. Department of State. Afghans now in Albania were evacuated from Afghanistan by nonprofits and organizations that expected Albania to be a stopover. A temporary landing pad as evacuees were processed for permanent resettlement in the U.S. However, this long-term bureaucratic mess seems likely to continue. “The Afghans stranded at a luxury resort”, The Washington Post, September 16, 2022.
UK’s ACRS – Not Working? Afghan nationals who were promised resettlement to the United Kingdom nearly a year ago continue to face torture and death while they wait for a response from the British government. Launched in January 2021, the Afghan Citizen’s Resettlement Scheme has not been very effective in helping Afghans who worked for, or were affiliated with, the British government. This includes its embassy staff as well as British Council teachers. “Revealed: UK has failed to resettle Afghans facing torture and death despite promise”, The Guardian, December 3, 2022.
Muslim Immigrant Shelter in Mexico – Just Short of the U.S. Border. A combination mosque and shelter is located just two blocks from the United States border that caters expressly to Muslims who intend to cross into the United States. “Mexico’s First Muslim Immigrant Shelter: A U.S. National Security Perspective”, Center for Immigration Studies, November 30, 2022.
SIV-Eligible Afghans – In Limbo. According to the advocacy group No One Left Behind, there are roughly 200,000 Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) Afghans still awaiting evacuation. “SIV-eligible Afghans remain in limbo after US withdrawal”, Military Families Magazine, December 2, 2022.
Slovenia Accepts Refugees. Fifty refugees from Afghanistan and Syria will be moving from Turkey to Slovenia as part of a resettlement plan that will be finalized at the end of January 2023. (Euractiv, Dec 2, 2022)
Abusive Situation for Refugees in Turkey. Afghans are being abused at European Union funded removal centers in Turkey due to a lack of proper monitoring and oversight according to Human Rights Watch. Turkey is also deporting large numbers of Afghans back to Kabul. “Turkey’s EU-funded detention centres ripe with abuse: NGO”, EUObserver, December 1, 2022.
Afghan SOF Soldier – From Kabul, to Brazil, to U.S., and then to Jail. A former member of the Afghan special operations forces was in hiding from the Taliban for more than a year. After repeatedly hearing of other Afghan SOF colleagues being hunted down and killed by the Taliban he fled Afghanistan. After arriving in Brazil he made the perilous journey to the U.S. border. Upon crossing the border he was apprehended by the Border Patrol at which time he requested asylum. He is now in confinement with an uncertain future. (The Texas Tribune, Dec 1, 2022).
Asylum in Sweden. A UNHCR-commissioned report examines how the Swedish Migration Agency conducts refugee status determination of Afghans after the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan in 2021. (UNHCR, Dec 2, 2022).
News About Afghanistan
Facebook and the “Taliban”. Apparently Facebook is ‘flagging’ search terms with ‘Taliban’ in it. Warnings are presented that the material could be ‘sensitive’. Members of the Afghan Evac community are worried that this will remove the attention needed on Facebook about the dire circumstances of Afghans in Afghanistan. There is concern that Facebook will be suppressing posts about the Taliban.
Pakistan Diplomat Targeted in Kabul. Gunmen attempted to assassinate the Pakistan Charge d’Affairs in Kabul on Friday, December 2, 2022. Ubaid Ur Rehman Nizamani survived the attack but a security guard critically injured. It is possible that the attack was carried out by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan or TTP. “Pakistan’s Top Diplomat in Afghanistan Survives Assassination Attempt”, Voice of America, December 2, 2022. In other security related news the Pakistani Taliban has announced the end of the ceasefire and is ordering its followers to resume attacks against Pakistan interests. (Gandhara Blog, Nov 28, 2022).
Challenges in Pakistan-Afghan Relationships. The tensions between Islamabad and Kabul are continuing to rise. Pakistan’s leverage with the Taliban regime is slowing eroding; diminishing the hope of a ‘proxy’ regime that would provide ‘strategic depth’ that Pakistan seeks. The Pakistanis may now see a future where there is ‘blowback’ – operations by jihadist forces crossing the Durand Line with sanctuary in Afghanistan. In addition, the Taliban are now looking at India as a regional partner that can help with development aid and more. Pashtun nationalism remains a concern – as many Pashtuns live in Pakistan. “Pakistan-Afghan Taliban relations face mounting challenges”, Middle East Institute, December 2, 2022.
Terrorist Designation of AQIS and TTP Leaders. The U.S. Department of State has designated four AQIS and TTP leaders as Specially Designated Global Terrorists for their leadership roles in their respective groups (see press release Dec 1, 2022). Bill Roggio provides more details in his article posted by the Long War Journal (Dec 2, 2022).
Thomas West in Travel Mode. Special Representative for Afghanistan Thomas West will travel to Japan, India, and the United Arab Emirates December 1-8, 2022. He will consult with partners and Afghans on a number of topics. (DoS, Nov 30, 2022).
Afghan Approval of U.S. A recent survey has found that the approval rating of the United States has gone up a bit. Among the Pashtun’s, the U.S. remains widely unpopular – with only 8% approving. The Tajiks came in at 23% and the Hazara at 53%. “Afghans Show Mixed Feelings About US More Than a Year After Withdrawal”, Voice of America, December 1, 2022. See also “Afghans Sink Deeper Into Despair Under Taliban’s Control“, Gallup Blog, December 1, 2022.
Congress, SIGAR, DoS, and USAID. The most recent report on Afghanistan by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) stated that the Department of State, US Agency for International Development, and the Treasury Department all withheld information from SIGAR. House Foreign Affairs Committee Lead Republican Michael McCaul is calling on all of these agencies to comply with the ‘will of Congress’ and work with SIGAR. See this press release by the Foreign Affairs Committee (Dec 2, 2022) and this news article by Laura Kelly published in The Hill (Dec 2, 2022).
Life Under the Taliban
Voice of America – Banned. The Taliban have ordered that Voice of America and Radio Liberty can no longer broadcast on AM and FM transmitters in Afghanistan. This is just one more step in the Taliban clamping down on media freedoms in Afghanistan. “CEO Bennett condemns media restrictions in Afghanistan”, U.S. Agency for Global Media, December 1, 2022.
Dire Circumstances. New data show hunger, privation in Afghanistan is present for a second winter in a row. A bleak picture of the ongoing human tragedy in Afghanistan is revealed in a new report. “Afghans Adapting to Economic Decline, Social Restrictions”, United States Institute of Peace, November 30, 2022.
Public Floggings. In mid-November the supreme leader of Afghanistan, Hibatullah Akhundzada, ordered the full implementation of Sharia law in the country. The Taliban are now returning to the hard-line policies of the past during their 1996 to 2001 rule. The hopes of the West and that of the Afghan population of a kinder approach to the rule-of-law has been unrealized. “Public Floggings – A Cornerstone of the New Regime in Afghanistan”, Organization for World Peace, November 28, 2022.
Women Riding Bikes? Not Any More. As the economy of Afghanistan flounders, less and less people are using automobiles. Instead, they are turning to the more economical bicycle. Unfortunately, if you are a women or a girl, this is no longer permitted. “Post Taliban takeover: Riding a bike is out of the question for Afghan women”, NPR, November 30, 2022.
Decree on TB Regime Law-Making Process. The Taliban leaders have issued new orders on the law-making process and the enforcement of court orders from the previous government. (Jurist, Nov 27, 2022).
Life is Tough Under TB Rule. A former Afghan soldier describes his new and hard life living in today’s Afghanistan. “For Afghans who fought against the Taliban, life is fraught under their rule”, WQLN PBS, November 28, 2022.
Marrying Off Young Daughters. Afghans are increasingly marrying off young daughters to avoid forces unions with Taliban fighters. (Gandhara Blog, Dec 1, 2022).
Humanitarian Assistance and Economy
Going to the Bank. The Afghan banking system collapsed shortly after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021. The Afghan treasury had very little money left in it, the central bank’s reserves held in Europe and the U.S. were frozen, and international aid stopped flowing to Kabul. There are now restrictions on how much access bank customers have to their own money. Learn more in “The Daily Hustle: Going to the Bank”, Afghanistan Analysts Network, December 2, 2022.
Air Corridor Established. The Afghan Ministry of Industry and Commerce says that it has signed a new Air Corridor Agreement with India. This will enable air trade between the two countries. (India Narrative, Nov 28, 2022).
Money Changers – Connecting Afghanistan to the Rest of the World. Economic conditions and harsh rules implemented by the Taliban regime have squeezed the money changers of Afghanistan. However, the business is still brisk – offering a wide range of financial services to include currency exchanges, money transfers, savings accounts, and loans. The money changers are also one of the few remaining financial connections between the country and the outside world. “How Afghanistan’s Money Exchangers Have Worked Around the Taliban”, Foreign Policy, November 26, 2022.
Commentary, Analysis, and Opinion
AAA: Immediate Action Needed. Retired U.S. Marine Russell Worth Parker, a veteran of special operations and Afghanistan, came in close contact with members of the Afghan security forces and civilian interpreters on a daily basis years ago. In August 2021 he was deeply involved in the evacuation of at-risk Afghans from the Kabul airport. Now he is in full support of legislation needed to provide a legal path to Afghans who the U.S. military flew to safety. “Immediate action is needed to aid Afghans who put their lives on the line for Americans”, NC Policy Watch, November 30, 2022.
Afghan Adjustment Act and Senator Susan Collins? The passage of legislation that would assist Afghans who were evacuated by the U.S. military from Kabul in August 2021 is under consideration by Congress this month. It is coming down to the wire and the Afghan Adjustment Act (AAA) needs a few more Republican Senators to step up and do the right thing. Members of the Maine Vets for Afghans are calling on Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) to support the Afghan Adjustment Act. Collins is highly regarded by many as a moderate Republican who is not afraid of standing up to the ‘Republican establishment’ and is considered to be one who would be able to get past the politics and come out in favor of the Afghan Adjustment Act. The other three members of the Maine congressional delegation appear to be behind the proposed legislation. The Maine vets are hoping that Senator Collins recognizes the importance of supporting the at-risk Afghans who were evacuated from Afghanistan by the U.S. military and who are now living in Maine and across the United States. Over a year ago she was in full support of the evacuation in August 2021.
Support the AAA. Kami Rice, a cofounder of Allied Shepherd, is a member of the Afghan Evac Coalition. She provides a strong message on why the Afghan Adjustment Act needs to be included in Congressional legislation being considered this December. “Support the Afghan Adjustment Act”, Johnson City Press, December 4, 2022.
Deportation in the Future? Without congressional action on the Afghan Adjustment Act, the tens of thousands of Afghans evacuated to the United States may be deported in the coming year. “The Next Afghan-Refugee Crisis is Right Here in the U.S.”, The Atlantic, November 28, 2022.
AAA – An Opposing View. Simon Hankison, a Senior Research Fellow with The Heritage Foundation has provided his perspective on the Afghan Adjustment Act. It is not a favorable one; and his ‘facts’ may not be entirely correct. “The Afghan Adjustment Act Would Not Facilitate Safe or Orderly U.S. Entry of Afghan Allies”, The Heritage Foundation, December 2, 2022.
Book – Waiting for Dignity: Legitimacy and Authority in Afghanistan. Read more about this book by Florian Weigand in “How to build (or lose) legitimacy during war”, Global Policy, November 29, 2022.
Maps, District Control, and Reality. One of the more perplexing concerns of the two decade-long involvement of the United States in the Afghan conflict was that of how its military measured district control in Afghanistan. Year after year, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) put out maps indicating what districts were controlled by the Afghan military forces and what districts were controlled by the Taliban. Usually, the determining factor was who controlled that small parcel of land where the district governmental center offices were based. For instance, a district would be judged to be under government control if a small contingent of Afghan National Police (ANP) and a company of Afghan National Army (ANA) were holding the equivalent of one square mile of territory. The remaining 99% of the district would be controlled by the Taliban; yet the maps would reflect a district under government control. Read more in “The Tyranny of Color-Coded Maps: What We Get Wrong About Measuring Control During Armed Conflict”, Modern War Institute, November 28, 2022.
Review of Retrograde. A movie, Retrograde, about the disastrous withdrawal of U.S. military forces, defeat of the Afghan military, fall of the Afghan government, and the chaotic NEO in Kabul in August 2021 is receiving favorable reviews. Read a recent review by We Are the Mighty (Dec 1, 2022), Read also “Forgotten Afghan Stories Highlighted in Two New Films”, New Age Entertainment, December 4, 2022.
Books about Afghanistan
Photo: A Danish coalition service member holds up a Danish flag to identify families during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 21. U.S. service members and coalition forces are assisting the Department of State with a non-combatant evacuation operation (NEO) in Afghanistan. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Victor Mancilla)