Compiled and edited by Peter Lucier. A periodic roundup tracking significant news and updates relevant to the thousands of Afghans still pursuing safe relocation from their home country, the on-going journeys of those who have arrived in the United States, and the men and women who stand in solidarity alongside them. This week in the recap:
- The Senate reached a deal to move the continuing resolution forward. The bill prevents a government shut down, and funds the US government through Dec 16th forward.
- While veterans and Afghans had stood firewatch for 13 days outside the Capitol, hoping to shame Congress into finally taking action regarding parolees evacuated from Afghanistan last August, the Afghan Adjustment Act was not included in the CR.
- While AAA was not included in the CR, funding for Operation Enduring Welcome was authorized. The Afghan Placement and Assistance Act (APA), which extend refugee benefits to Afghan parolees, also was extended to include any Afghan parolees who enter in the coming year.
- Operation Enduring Welcome is almost here: signs of the wind down of “Operation Allies Welcome” and start of “Operation Enduring Welcome” continued this week. The inclusion of operational funding and benefits in the CR both gave at least temporary reassurance that the US government remains invested in on-going relocation efforts.
- Another milestone marking the shift from OAW to OEW – DHS announced that no Afghan arrivals remain at the National Conference Center in Leesburg, Virginia.
- While US military bases across the country had acted as “safe havens” for arrivals awaiting final placement, from August 2021 through February 2022, for months NCC had acted as the last such temporary housing facility still in operation. Moving forward, Afghan arrivals will travel directly to their final resettlement destinations
- President Biden announced his Presidential Determination of Refugee Admissions for FY2023.
- The target for the coming year? 125,000. Which mirrors last years target, which saw only 20,000 refugees actually admitted to the US.
- Secretary Blinken announced $327 million in new funding from the US to support implementing partners providing humanitarian aid in country.
- This brings total US spending on humanitarian aid in Afghanistan since last August to 1.1 billion.
- More below in “UNGA” on how the deputy chief at UNAMA says the total $1.9 billion from US ad others is still less than half of the $4.4 billion that was estimated to be required to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.
- Not earmarked for humanitarian aid – $3.5 billion from frozen Afghan central bank assets, which State and Treasury announced will be transferred to an independent fund at a Swiss bank, to be deployed to enhance macroeconomic stability in Afghanistan.
- State Department Spox Ned Price made clear in a recent press conference – this money is not for humanitarian aid efforts. Instead, it will be used in the same way a central bank deploys its funds – providing stability, liquidity, and debt service payments to international organizations and corporations, including paying bills for electricity, for which the de facto authority Taliban are already past due.
3rd Countries Goings-on:
- On the topic of those assets: Pakistan Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari warned against isolating the Taliban, in an interview with Associated Press, during the final days of his trip to the opening of the 77th Session of the UN General Assembly in New York.
- Afghanistan was not all that was on Zadari’s mind. Summer floods in Pakistan have killed close to 1600 people already. 30 million persons are reported to be displaced.
- Floods in Pakistan have also had a devastating impact on staple food and cash crops. Fully 15 percent of Pakistan’s domestic rice crop, and 40 percent of the cotton crop, have been wiped out by the floods. In Sindh, the hardest hit province, its worse. 80 percent of the rice crop, and 70 percent of cotton, were destroyed by the flooding. The wheat crop, usually planted in October, is also in question, as 50 percent of fields in Sindh remain underwater. While the Pakistani agriculture sector had surged in recent years, allowing Pakistan to become a net food exporter, government officials now say that Pakistan will have to import wheat and other staples this year. During the UNGA session, the Biden administration announced the US would provide an additional $10 million in food relief for Pakistan, in addition to the $56 million already allocated for flood relief efforts from the US.
- Reports from earlier in the month indicated Turkey, host already to more than 4 million refugees, a large Afghan population, had discarded its previous, more lenient migration policy. Afghans in Turkey shared stories of increased police raids and deportation charter flights back to Afghanistan.
- Tajikistan may be joining Turkey in taking a more hard line on Afghan refugees. UNHCR confirmed that 80 Afghans in Tajikistan had been deported since August 16th of this year. In response to the news, Elizabeth Tan, UNHCR’s director of international protection, said: “We are asking Tajikistan to stop detaining and deporting refugees, an action that clearly puts lives at risk. “Forced return of refugees is against the law and runs contrary to the principle of non-refoulement, a cornerstone of international refugee law,” she said, referring to the legal tenet that forbids a country receiving asylum seekers from returning them to somewhere they would be at risk of persecution.
- Economic issues continue. Taliban sign a tentative deal for Russia to sell oil and fuel to Afghanistan. Execution pending. A spokesman for the Taliban-led Afghan ministry of commerce and industry, Akhundzada Abdul Salam, said its top officials had traveled to the Russian capital last month, where they negotiated and signed the import agreement. Kabul “hopes and is waiting for Russia to implement it soon,” Salam told VOA.
- The deal allows for the Taliban to purchase up to 1 million metric tons of gasoline, 1 million tons of diesel, 500,000 tons of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and 2 million tons of wheat from Russia.
- Washington isn’t only worried about the Taliban in this deal. G7 nations have looked to restrict Russian earning from oil and gas sales since the invasion of Ukraine, by Russia, this February.
- The deal comes on the heels of a July deal with Iran, for 350,000 metric tons of oil.
- Senior member of the Taliban, Deputy Foreign Minister Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, called for the reopening of schools for girls inside of Afghanistan.
Say “Kowabunga” for United Nations General Assembly (UNGA):
- You know what the third week of September means – it’s that time for model UN nerds to go nuts, and good luck trying to find a parking spot in New York, because UNGA is back in session!
- Two new UN reports highlight Afghanistan still in throes of triple crisis: (1) ongoing conflict and violence, (2) humanitarian and economic collapse, and “wide-spread, systematic and all-encompassing” attacks on the rights of women and girls.
- The reports come from the newly mandated and appointed Special Rapporteur, who reports to the UN Human Rights Council and new deputy UNAMA chief, who reports to the Secretary General, who presents the findings to the Security Council
- Ahead of the session, on September 8th the new UN Special Rapportueur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan released his first report in the role, largely focusing on the situation since the Taliban became the de facto government last year.
- Richard Bennett was appointed as the Special Rapporteur earlier this year, and assumed duties on 1 May 2022.
- The report finds: Since the Taliban takeover, Afghans are trapped in a human rights crisis that the world seemed powerless to address.
- The severe rollback of the rights of women and girls, reprisals targeting opponents and critics, and a clampdown on freedom of expression by the Taliban amounted to a descent into authoritarianism.
- History should not be repeated regarding the rollback of the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan. The de facto authorities needed to change their policies and uphold women’s human rights. If they did not change, they needed to be held to account.
- Deputy Special Representative (Political) for Afghanistan in the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), Markus Potzel briefed the Security Council on his findings on September 27th.
- the deteriorating situation for Afghan women’s rights
- the Taliban’s commitment to counter-terrorism; and
- clashes between the Taliban and armed groups in north of the country.
- Following Potzel were speakers from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), and former Deputy Speaker of Afghan Parliament, Fawzia Koofi.
- Sparks flew in the Security Council when the US and Russian representatives, took the opportunity during their speaking times to comment on the other’s history of military action inside of Afghanistan.
The representative from the Russian Federation remonstrated ISIL-K for its attack which killed two Russian Embassy employees. Her critique then shifted to the United States – characterizing the US’s announcement regarding Afghan Central Bank funds “outrageous” and calling on the US return the “stolen assets” immediately.
Representative Anna Evstigneeva did not stop at the bank assets. She accused the US of meticulously blotting out evidence of war crimes committed by the US and NATO in Afghanistan, and called on the International Criminal Court to resume collection of evidence regarding potential war crimes. She ended by saying the pursuit of peace and recovery in Afghanistan must not resort to “blackmail.”
Amb. Jeffrey DeLaurentis, Senior Advisor for Special Political Affairs to the US Mission to the UN, took time at the end of his prepared remarks to respond. No one who is serious about containing terrorism inside of Afghanistan, would advocate making $3.5 billion available immediately to the Taliban, he said, in reference to the central bank assets. And towards the Russian rep generally, he added:
“…you were chased out of Afghanistan in the 1990s, so you are really not in the position to lecture us, or anyone else, how to go about your affairs. You had a security blanket, free of charge, for 20 years while we were there. And I know you would like nothing more for our troops to be bogged down in Afghanistan. As you have said many times, it’s your neighborhood, and now you need to step up.”
Both sides later took rights of reply to speak a second time, the Russian rep claiming that Washington was trying to shift responsibility for the current state of Afghanistan. Laurentis in his second time to the floor, said that Moscow was desperate to demonstrate that the United States was as violent and duplicitous in Afghanistan, as Russia is now behaving in Ukraine
UNAMA deputy Potzul’s briefing raised several other topics of concern:
- The ban on secondary education and restriction of women’s rights signal the Taliban are willing to risk international isolation
- A terrorist attack at the Russian embassy in Kabul killed 10, including a Russian diplomat.
- UNAMA has called on the de facto authorities (the Taliban) to investigate allegations of extrajudicial killings in Panjshir.
The Deputy Special Representative also underscored the tenuous economic and humanitarian situation in Afghanistan.
- Part of the economic collapse is due to isolation from the international banking system, and a lack of liquidity.
- Afghanistan remains dependent on outside cash from humanitarian assistance to provide liquidity
- The UN’s humanitarian response plan to address the crisis has only received $1.9 billion for humanitarian aid, on a $4.4 billion requirement.
- Immediate funding shortfalls threaten as winter approaches – $614 million for winter preparedness, and $154 million to preposition supplies in areas that will soon be inaccessible due to winter weather
- International donor states can’t agree on providing assistance on long term infrastructure projects necessary for the delivery of essential human needs, like health care, and clean water.
End it with some feel good:
They lost their mom to a Kabul bombing. Now their dad finally joins them.
Incredible story from the Post on family reunification.
Local teachers in Afghanistan reopen girls’ schools, defying the Taliban’s long-standing education ban
Australian outlet with a story of women defying the education ban.
Peter Lucier is a Marine Corps veteran and graduate of St. Louis University School of Law. He volunteers with Team America Relief, AfghanEvac, and Association of War Time Allies.
Photo: An Afghan guest speaks with a Task Force Liberty member at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, Jan. 7, 2022, about her upcoming school semester before departing Task Force Liberty on a college scholarship. U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Matthew B. Fredericks.