Topics: News about Afghanistan, relocation, immigration, resettlement, humanitarian crisis, commentary, books, podcasts, events, and more.
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Afghan SOF Fighting for Russia? According to multiple sources, Russia is recruiting former Afghan Commandos to fight with a Russian private military company known as the Wagner Group in Ukraine. “Why is Russia Recruiting Former Afghan Soldiers for its War Against Ukraine?”, by Syed Fazl-e-Haider, Eurasia Daily Monitor, January 12, 2023.
Afghan SOF Soldier – Detained at U.S. Border. Abdul Wasi Safi, a former Afghan Special Forces lieutenant, has been in U.S. detention for months after swimming across the Rio Grande to enter the country. He left Afghanistan for Iran, flew to Brazil on a Brazilian humanitarian visa, and made the perilous journey from Brazil to the U.S. southern border. Upon crossing he was detained by the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) and has been confined awaiting a hearing and possible deportation back to Afghanistan (and death). A provision in the Afghan Adjustment Act would have given Safi ‘Special Immigrant Visa status’; but, unfortunately, not enough Republican Senators stepped up to do ‘the right thing’. “Betrayal: Afghan Special Forces Soldier Who Fought With Americans Held for Months in U.S. Detention”, by Ryan Mills, National Review, January 23, 2023.
Google Docs and Afghan Evac. How do you manage airflow into a small airport with just one runway surrounded by the enemy and thousands of desperate Afghans attempting to board evacuation aircraft? Try Google Docs. The U.S. Air Force couldn’t afford to have aircraft sitting on the runway or on the parallel taxiway at Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA). The evac effort to track incoming and outgoing aircraft and arrange ‘time slots’ started with a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet but Airmen transitioned to Google Docs in order to share with other users due to the busy tempo at HKIA. This allowed more Afghans to be airlifted from Afghanistan in a shorter time. “How airmen used a single Google Doc to save thousands of lives during the Afghan airlift”, Task & Purpose, January 16, 2023.
Passport Office. The rumors continue to swirl about when the Kabul passport office will open. Possibly by mid-February if not sooner. Currently, some people with medical conditions and those with Taliban connections are managing to get passports.
Visa Fraud Conspiracy. An American has pleaded guilty to receiving bribes to sign false letter of recommendations for Afghans seeking a Special Immigrant Visa or SIV. “Man Pleads Guilty to Bribery and Visa Fraud Conspiracies”, U.S. Department of Justice, January 4, 2023.
Germany’s Admission Program for Afghanistan. Only authorized agencies can put forward the names of individuals to the German Government for selection under the federal admission program. “How can a person be considered for inclusion in the federal admission programme for Afghanistan?”, Federal Foreign Office, October 17, 2022.
UK’s ‘Operation Warm Welcome’. The United Kingdom has been relying on a temporary ‘bridging accommodation’ model to house thousands of Afghan evacuees that were brought to the UK during the August 1991 Kabul evacuation. It has been described as “underfunded, flawed, and poorly planned”. “Operation Warm Welcome cools: over 9,000 Afghans still in temporary accommodation”, Free Movement, January 16, 2023.
DoS Family Reunification Platform and Form. The Department of State announced the launch of an Afghan family reunification landing page that included information on how Afghans in the United States can reunify with their family members. On January 12, 2023 DoS announced the presence of a form for Afghan parolees that want to reunite with their families. Read more in “State Department Afghan Family Reunification Platform Launches New Parolee Form”, U.S. Department of State, January 12, 2023.
#Afghan Evac Website. The website for the Afghan Evac Coalition now can be viewed in Dari, Pashtu, or Uzbek. https://afghanevac.org/
Harvard’s Safe Harbor. Some Afghans who fled Afghanistan after the 2021 Taliban takeover of the country have found refuge in Cambridge, Massachusetts at one of America’s most prestigious higher learning institutions. Harvard University’s ‘Safe Harbor’ program is assisting Afghan ‘Scholars at Risk’ with living expenses and an opportunity to continue their studies and work. “To the Rescue”, Harvard Magazine, December 2022.
Iran and Residency Permits. The residence permits of more than one million Afghan citizens have been extended by Iran. There are more than three million Afghans in Iran; but only one million have residency permits. “Iran provides residency permits to one million Afghan refugees”, ATN News, January 2, 2023.
U.S. Resettlement – An Uncertain Future for Afghans. With the absence of the Afghan Adjustment Act in the 2023 Omnibus, Congress has failed Afghan evacuees and U.S. Veterans once again. Congress has not created a streamlined path to residency for Afghans who were evacuated during the August 2021 non-combatant evacuation operation (NEO). “Afghan refugees in US face uncertainty as legislation stalls”, by Farnoush Amiri, AP News, December 30, 2022.
Stranded in India. Over 180 Afghan military members are stranded in India. Many of them were attending military training and some were receiving medical attention. Now the face financial difficulties, separation from their families, and an uncertain future. “Over 180 former soldiers from Afghanistan still stranded in India”, AMU.TV, January 3, 2023.
Turkey . . . Not Quite a Safe Haven. Attacks by Turkish soldiers on Afghan refugees are increasing. Many have been injured, sexually assaulted, or killed. The Wan-East Kurdistan (Iran) border area has become dangerous for refugees. The border crossings from Iran into the Van area of Turkey (Google maps) has become extremely dangerous due to the winter season and actions of Turkish soldiers and human traffickers. “Attacks by Turkish soldiers on refugees are increasing”, ANF News, January 15, 2023.
News and Reports About Afghanistan
Gen Austin Miller Profile. Elisabeth Edwards provides a comprehensive essay on the last U.S. commander in Afghanistan. “General Austin Miller: The Longest-Serving Commander of the War in Afghanistan”, War History Online, January 16, 2023.
CRS Report – Afghan Women. The Congressional Research Service has published a two-page report entitled Afghan Women and Girls: Status and Congressional Action, PDF, January 10, 2023.
Cash to the Taliban? Recent news reports and social media posts have stated that western nations are shipping cash to the Taliban. This was because Afghanistan’s Taliban-controlled central bank made remarks and posted photos of bundles of cash on Twitter that a package of $40 million of humanitarian aid had arrived and had been deposited in a commercial bank in Kabul. The United Nations has posted a press release explaining some of the rumors swirling about on “cash payments”. Read more in “Cash Shipments to the UN in Afghanistan – Info Sheet”, UNAMA, January 9, 2023. See also “UN rebukes Afghan bank’s cash remarks as ‘misleading and unhelpful'”, Axios, January 15, 2023.
Gulf States and the Taliban. The relationship of countries of the Middle East to the new Taliban regime is complicated, However, some observers see a move toward ‘soft’ recognition of the Taliban government in an effort to ‘influence’ the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan and security threats to the region. “Saudi Arabia and Qatar are cooperating with the Taliban. But their approaches to Afghanistan are different”, Atlantic Council, January 12, 2023.
Life Under the Taliban and Security
Biometrics – A Danger to Afghans. After the Taliban took over Afghanistan on August 15, 2021 they gained control of the buildings, equipment, and material of the Afghan Ministry of Interior (MoI) and Ministry of Defense (MoD), and the various security organizations (police, army, and other orgs). Among these newly acquired possessions is the biometric equipment used by the former security institutions to register members of the government, police, army, and intelligence agencies. As a result, the Taliban now control systems with the sensitive personal information of those they seek to arrest and imprison. A German organization recently bought a former U.S. biometric device with over 2,500 personal profiles (biometric data) still embedded in the machine off e-Bay. German security researchers studying biometric capture devices popular with the U.S. military got more than they expected for $68. “For Sale on eBay: A Military Database of Fingerprints and Iris Scans”, The New York Times, January 2023. (subscription). See also “How Taliban’s takeover of US biometric devices threatens data privacy”, Interesting Engineering, January 15, 2023.
Bombing Outside MFA. Numerous people were killed and injured in a bombing attack by ISIS-K against the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in mid-January 2023. “Afghanistan: Deadly suicide bombing outside foreign ministry”, BBC News, January 12, 2023.
Female Afghan Lawmaker Assassinated. Unknown assailants shot dead a female former lawmaker, her bodyguard, and her brother. She was one of the few female lawmakers that decided not to flee the country when the Taliban took over in August 2021. “Gunmen Assassinate Female Former Afghan Lawmaker”, Voice of America, January 15, 2023.
NRF and Insecurity. The National Resistance Front, in its present form, is unlikely to pose a serious threat to the Taliban regime in the near future. However, future events could provide an opportunity for the small insurgent movement to grow. “Resistance to the Taliban: Current status and prospects for the future”, by Shivam Shekhawat, Observer Research Foundation, January 10, 2023.
US Think Tanks Meet with NRF. There are social media reports that a delegation from US Think Tanks (CSIS, CNAS, etc.) have met with NRF leadership in Tajikistan. One was Ms. Lisa Curtis of CNAS – who previously worked as Trump NSA SA director. She resigned shortly after the Trump administration concluded the US withdrawal agreement in Doha with the Taliban in February 2020.
Humanitarian Assistance and Economy
Taliban Banning Women and HA. The recent announcement by the Taliban regime banning women from universities and working with non-governmental humanitarian organizations has prompted reaction from the international community. A number of NGOs and the United Nations has said it cannot continue to supply the Taliban with humanitarian aid. The Taliban are still requesting support . . . arguing that humanitarian aid should not be linked to politics. “Taliban asks to keep getting UN aid money despite ending education for women”, Business Insider, January 16, 2023. See also “Taliban ban on female NGO staff is deepening Afghanistan’s public health crisis”, Science.org, January 16, 2023.
Cold Winter – No Electricity. Afghanistan is in the midst of another harsh winter. Electricity is in short supply and sporadic. A lack of heating fuel is causing much distress. Food is expensive and hard to get. Jobs are far and few between. The Afghans are having another tough winter with extremely low temperatures.
Trouble for Truckers at Border. Hundreds of containers loaded with commercial goods are stranded at the Torkham port (Google maps) due to transportation challenges created by the Taliban. “Truckers complain about Taliban ‘monopoly’ at Torkham border”, Amu TV, January 15, 2023.
Commentary, Analysis, and Opinion
Oversight on Afghan Withdrawal. Representative Michael McCaul (R-TX) is now the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Now that the Republicans control the House the next round of ‘investigations’ will begin. The Foreign Affairs Committee is now requesting an expansive list of documents and information about the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan from the White House. Read McCaul’s press release on the topic. (Foreign Affairs Committee, January 12, 2023). See also “Republican-led House committee begins Afghanistan withdrawal investigation”, Washington Examiner, January 13, 2023.
Pakistan and ‘Blowback’. Pakistan’s unconventional warfare campaign that drove NATO from Afghanistan and removed the elected Afghan Republic has backfired. “Trouble in Terrorism Paradise: Pakistan Now Beefing with Regime in Afghanistan”, Clearance Jobs, January 5, 2023.
American Legion and AAA. The American Legion, one of the U.S.’s largest Veteran organizations, is calling for the new Congress to pass the Afghan Adjustment Act (AAA) in early 2023. Read a press release by Vincent J. “Jim” Troiola, National Commander of the American Legion. “Time to resolve the Afghanistan allies issue”, Legion.org, January 11, 2023.
Moral Injury – Call for Article Submission. The 2020-2021 US withdrawal from Afghanistan serves as a point of departure for scholarship on the multiple facets of and implications for the US military, including how it fights wars and cares for its warfighters. The concept of moral injury is not new; but the Afghan debacle has prompted new discussion on this topic. AEther: A Journal of Strategic Airpower & Spacepower is calling for the submission of scholarly research articles on moral injury to be published in a special issue on the topic later this year. “Call for Submissions – Special Issue on Moral Injury”, LinkedIn, January 4, 2023.
Video – Waltz, Mann, and Ahmad Mossoud. Scott Mann, retired Green Beret and advocate for Afghan evacuees, hosts Representative Mike Waltz (R-FL) and the leader of the National Resistance Front (NRF) to discuss the past, current, and future events in Afghanistan. Rooftop Leadership, January 2023, YouTube, 1 1/2 hours. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9u0oXQCiWD0
Books about Afghanistan
Photo: Patch of the Afghan Commandos of the Afghan National Army Special Operations Command (ANASOC). RSHQ Twitter, 2017.