Topics: News about Afghanistan, relocation, immigration, resettlement, humanitarian crisis, commentary, books, podcasts, events, and more.
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Two Americans Released. The Taliban have allowed two Americans to depart Afghanistan. They were flown to Qatar and are expected to arrive in the United States before the holidays. One of the released is Ivor Shearer, an American filmmaker. (Fox News, Dec 21, 2022).
Journey from Afghanistan to Greece. Some Afghans have made the dangerous journey to Greece, many times transiting Iran or Turkey. For women traveling alone it is especially dangerous. “The Trap: A Journey from Afghanistan to Europe”, Inter Press Service, December 22, 2022.
Afghan Commando Apprehended and Detained by U.S. A former member of the Afghan National Army Special Operations Command (ANASOC) made his way to Brazil and then on a dangerous journey to the U.S. border. When he crossed the southern border to request asylum he was detained by the U.S. Border Patrol and is now facing deportation back to Afghanistan. This, of course, is a death sentence for the former Afghan Commando. While thousands of migrants cross the U.S. border daily and are put on buses to sanctuary cities where they receive food, housing, and other assistance, this Afghan ally who fought alongside U.S. special operations forces in Afghanistan faces death if returned by U.S. authorities to Afghanistan. “US veterans groups call on Biden for help in Afghan soldier’s asylum case”, CNN, December 22, 2022. U.S. Representative Mike Waltz (R-FL), a Green Beret who served two tours in Afghanistan, has requested that President Joe Biden step in on the Afghan soldiers behalf. He was joined in the request by U.S. Representative Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), a former Navy SEAL. (Florida Politics, Dec 23, 2022). See also a report by Fox News (Dec 19, 2022).
Afghan Passport Update. Apparently the offices distributing passports are continuing to experience problems. Distribution of passports was halted in October. “Kabul Residents Call to Resume Passport Distribution”, Tolo News, December 11, 2022.
DoS – Afghanistan Inquiries. The Department of State has an USRAP update on its Afghanistan Inquiries webpage. As of December 2022 the DoS will begin to re-mail Afghan applicants with an accepted referral who have not indicated relocation to a third country. This email requests applicants confirm their location is Afghanistan. The State Department is contacting applicants as part of ongoing U.S. government efforts to potentially relocated vulnerable Afghans to a processing location.
Pakistan – PoR Smartcard Modification Centers. the Government of Pakistan with the support of the UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has opened 11 Proof of Registration (PoR) card modification (PCM) centres across the country. Run by Pakistan’s National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA), the PCM centres will update, correct, and modify information pertaining to the PoR card holders. PoR cardholders can register their newborn children and obtain a birth certificate. Children who are five years of age can get their own PoR card. The PoR card helps Afghans get access to health, education, and other facilities. Currently Pakistan hosts some 1.3 million registered Afghan refugees who are holding PoR cards.
Amnesty International and Pakistan. The country to the east of Afghanistan has hosted many Afghan refugees . . . more than any other country in the world. But Amnesty International is concerned for the lives and safety of Afghan refugees who have arrived in Pakistan since the return of the Taliban to power on August 15, 2021. “Letter: Protecting Afghans in Pakistan”, Amnesty International, December 16, 2022. See also “Paperless Afghan Migrants to be Fined or Blacklisted, not Deported: Pakistan”, The Khaama Press, December 23, 2022.
Afghan SIV Program Extended. The FY2023 Omnibus Appropriations bill has language inserted that extends the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program for those Afghans that worked with the United States during the Global War on Terror. An additional 4,000 have been allocated for the program. The omnibus spending package changes the language in the Afghan Allies Protection Act of 2009 by changing the end date to December 31, 2024 and increasing the visa allocation from 34,500 to 38,500. The SIV program provides a path to citizenship for Afghans if they meet the SIV requirements for eligibility. The Senate had not included the SIV extension in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in early December 2022; the legislation package that usually extended the Afghan SIV program. Writer Jenna Biter provides the details in “Congress Set to Renew Path to US for Some Afghans, But Not for Others”, Coffee or Die Magazine, December 20, 2022.
Resettling in U.S. For Afghans who came to the United States over the past year there are various programs available to allow them to stay on a temporary or permanent basis. These include Special Immigrant Visa, Humanitarian Parole, Family Reunification, Refugee Program, and Asylum. “Tens of Thousands of Afghans Work Their Way Through US Immigration System”, Voice of America, December 25, 2022.
Afghan Adjustment Act (AAA) Update. The U.S. Congress failed to include the AAA in the FY2023 Omnibus Appropriations bill. It was not included in the language that went to the Senate floor for voting and a bipartisan attempt to introduce a floor amendment for voting was defeated by Senators Grassley and McConnel. This was a big disappointment to Afghan evacuees, veterans organizations, and groups associated with the Afghan Evac community. Despite all the talk by Republican leaders on how they support veterans . . . they missed the boat on this one issue. “Congress drops Afghan allies item, dimming evacuee hopes”, The Washington Post, December 20, 2022.
Vaccinations. If you are an Afghan parolee and did not go to a government-run safe haven then you may need to report your compliance with the medical conditions of your parole. See Afghan Parolee Vaccination Status, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Resettlement in Michigan. An Afghan escaped her country in late 2021 and is now working at Michigan State University. Her travels took her to Albania and then finally to Michigan. Read more in “What coming to MSU from Afghanistan means to me”, MSU Today, December 14, 2022.
Illegal in UK? Problems Ahead. The United Kingdom is tightening up its regulations in an attempt to tackle illegal immigration. Small boats have been entering the English coastlines from France through the English Channel. The new rules will state that anyone who is expelled from the UK because they enter illegally will no longer be eligible to apply for asylum in the UK from abroad. “UK’s New Legislation Revokes Right to Remain for Those Reaching Illegally”, The Khaama Press, December 13, 2022.
Afghan Ally Denied SIV. The Department of State and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services seems to be unfairly putting an Afghan who worked for the U.S. government for over four years in a combat role. Zainullah Zaki was a combat interpreter and is the author of Always Faithful, an account of his work for the U.S. Marines in Southwest Afghanistan. He was evacuated by the U.S. military in August 2021 from the Kabul airport. Now he is caught in the same bureaucratic morass of the Department of State’s Special Immigrant Visa program. Apparently, once again, the DoS is demonstrating just how inept they really are. “US fails Afghan interpreter who served amid brutal Marine campaign”, Washington Examiner, December 15, 2022.
Expeditated Naturalization Through Military Service. Many of the Afghans evacuated in August 2021 from Kabul were members of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF). Some have indicated a desire to join the U.S. military. A Congressional Research Service (CRS) document outlines the methods toward U.S. military service for non-U.S. citizens.
News About Afghanistan
Coup Rumors. Social media has seen posts over the past few days of a split between Taliban factions. It is said that Sirajuddin Haqqani (MoI Minister) and Mullah Yaqoub (MoD Minister) may try to oust the ‘Supreme Leader’ and his circle of advisors and supporters that are based in the Kandahar region.
Pakistan and the TTP. Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan militants with sanctuary in Afghanistan are mounting attacks against Pakistan on a frequent basis; and Pakistan is not happy. It is believed that the Taliban are turning a blind eye to the terrorist organization that has sanctuary in Afghanistan. “As TTP Attacks Mount, Pakistan Runs out of Patience with Afghan Taliban”, The Diplomat, December 23, 2022.
China Under Attack. The Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) has been targeting several different groups of people in Afghanistan. Minorities, government officials, and others. One of their targets is Chinese visitors and businesses. “China’s Afghanistan Strategy may be in trouble”, Observer Research Foundation (ORF), December 23, 2022. See also “Chinese Government Orders Evacuation of its Citizens in Afghanistan Following Terrorist Attack”, Clearance Jobs, December 15, 2022.
Afghan Jews. A Jewish Afghan American and an anonymous partner from Afghanistan team up to preserve the Jewish community’s heritage. The Jewish presence in Afghanistan dates as far as 2,700 years ago. Jews fleeing Assyrian captivity made their way along the Silk Road through Persian and settled in Afghanistan where the established themselves in Kabul and Herat. “Preserving the hidden world of Afghan Jews”, The Jerusalem Post, December 4, 2022.
Salang Tunnel Fire. Numerous deaths have been attributed to a deadly fire in the tunnel used for vehicle traffic through a mountainous area of Afghanistan. An oil tanker overturned and caught fire in the Salang pass (Wikipedia) and the fire spread through the length of the tunnel. The fire spread to several trucks carrying coal. The tunnel is the primary gateway connecting Afghanistan’s northern provinces to the capital Kabul. The incident happened in Parwan province late on Saturday (Dec 17th). Rescue efforts are still underway to recover people trapped under rubble and in debris. The tunnel was build in the early 1960s by engineers and construction crews from the Soviet Union. News reports dated December 22nd indicate that the tunnel is now open to small vehicle traffic. An assessment of the damage is underway.
Life Under the Taliban
Women Barred from University Education. An edit was published by the Minister for Higher Education that barred women from attending public and private universities. The decision comes months after excluding girls from secondary school. Nations around the world and international organizations like UNESCO have condemned this decision by the Taliban and are calling for its immediate revocation. The nation will be hampered in the future if half the population is not allowed to pursue an education and participate in the work place or in public life. Protests that have erupted across the country were quickly broke up with a heavy-handed approach by the Taliban regime. Read more in “Standing with Afghanistan’s Women and Girls”, U.S. Department of State, December 20, 2022.
Women Banned From NGO Employment. Female NGO employees have been breaking Sharia law by failing to wear the Islamic Hijab. They are now no longer able to work of non-governmental organizations – many of these humanitarian aid groups with funding from the international community. The Ministry of Economy, responsible for the coordination of the national and international organizations conducting humanitarian activities in Afghanistan, has issued the regulation. Some major aid groups have suspended operations in Afghanistan since this new ruling went into effect. “Afghanistan: Taliban bans women from working for NGOs”, BBC News, December 24, 2022.
Humanitarian Assistance and Economy
The Poverty of Afghanistan. There are five reasons why Afghanistan remains within the 3 countries most at risk of a worsening humanitarian crisis. Increasing hunger, natural disasters, unemployment, lack of a functioning economy, and a failing government contribute to the economic devastation occurring in the country. “Afghanistan: An entire population pushed into poverty”, Rescue.org, December 22, 2022.
‘Etsy of Afghanistan’. The country has struggle with food security ever since the Taliban takeover. Long lines occur as Afghans try to obtain basic items such as flour, oil, salt, and lentils. Some organizations are assisting those in need with food deliveries. One e-commerce startup – Aseel – is allowing people to buy handmade goods and send aid packages. The organization started in 2017 with the goal to be an Etsy-like marketplace for handicrafts in Afghanistan. Since August 2021, the company has transformed its app into a fundraising and aid distribution platform – designed to focus on the humanitarian crisis in the country. “Why the ‘Etsy of Afghanistan’ expanded its focus to humanitarian aid”, Devex.com, December 22, 2022.
‘Visa on Arrival’ for Investors. The Taliban have established The Afghanistan Investment Desk, a center intended to provide services for foreign business people who wish to quickly conduct business transactions and get arrival visas. “Afghanistan Investment Desk Set Up at Kabul Airport to Facilitate Visa on Arrival”, Khaama Press, December 11, 2022.
Commentary, Analysis, and Opinion
GOP’s Afghanistan Probe. The House of Representatives will soon swing to a Republican majority. One result of this is the ability of the majority party to conduct investigations via the different committees. The Republicans will soon mount an investigation into the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. Certainly the facts should be ‘discovered’ and lessons learned recorded. Hopefully, the investigation will not become too ‘partisan’. The probe by the House will certainly be politically uncomfortable for the Biden administration. The House Foreign Affairs Committee may conduct an investigation in concert with the House Armed Services Committee. Democrats may try to force the committees to conduct an investigation into the entire 20-year U.S. involvement in the Afghan conflict; thereby diminishing the attention on the events of the summer of 2021. Read more in “Biden aides brace for GOP’s looming Afghanistan probe”, The Washington Post, December 20, 2022. (subscription)
Engaging with the Taliban. Sarah Zaman examines the pros and cons of engagement with the Taliban. “How Should Countries Engage with the Afghan Taliban?”, Voice of America, December 20, 2022.
Civil War in Afghanistan? Tiffany Hung examines the prospect of continued conflict in Afghanistan between Taliban factions, ISIS-K, and the various resistance movements. Read more in “Afghanistan and the Potential for Civil War: Assessing Stability”, The Afghanistan Bulletin, December 15, 2022.
Finland’s Twenty Years in Afghanistan. A recent report by the Finnish Institute of International Affairs (FIIA) examines the countries 20 year involvement in the Afghan conflict and its support to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). The report, Finland in Afghanistan 2001-2021: From stabilization to advancing foreign and security policy relations, was published on December 19, 2022. (PDF, 206 pages)
Report – Collapse of the ANSF. Timor Sharan provides a 30-page report about the defeat of the Afghan security forces in 2021. What Went Wrong: The 2021 Collapse of Afghan National Security Forces, Afghanistan Analysts Network, December 2022.
Afghanistan War Commission. This bipartisan working group was established by Congress in December 2021 to conduct a comprehensive review of key decisions related to U.S. military, intelligence, foreign assistance, and diplomatic involvement from June 2001 to August 2021.
Video – Taliban Bans Women from Universities in Afghanistan. Michael Kugelman, Director of the Asia Program for the Wilson Center, chats about the recent move by the Taliban to restrict educational opportunities for women. Wilson Center, YouTube, December 23, 2022, 3 minutes.
Video – The Special Forces Officer Behind Operation Pineapple. Scott Mann chats with the hosts of The Team House. He begins with his ‘origin story’ and proceeds through his career with SF, ‘bottom up’ SF operations, Village Stability Operations in Afghanistan, and then talks about his involvement with the Afghan Evac effort. December 24, 2022, YouTube, 2 hours.
Books about Afghanistan
Photo: A group of Afghan families were relocated from Kosovo to Norway in October 2021 to begin their new life on Scandianvian Airlines. (NATO Twitter video)