Topics: News about Afghanistan, evacuation of at-risk Afghans, resettlement of Afghans, humanitarian crisis, life under the Taliban, USAID failure, Operation 620, Camp Bondsteel, Torkhum border crossing, Norway conference, UN in Afghanistan, Haqqani Network, Guantanamo, Project Exodus Relief, Afghan economy, analysis, commentary, podcasts, and more.
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Evacuation from Afghanistan
Afghan Evac and USAID Failure. Samantha Power, the top official at the United States Agency for International Development, has been described as ” . . . a deer caught in the headlights . . .” when confronted with questions from USAID staffers on how to deal with the USAID employees in Afghanistan. However, the unpreparedness of USAID runs deeper than just the political appointee at the helm – it extends throughout senior management. Tens of thousands of Afghans were employed on USAID projects in Afghanistan. Alice Speri provides a glaring look at the ineptitude of the development organization in “USAID Contractors Denounce Agency’s Betrayal of Thousands of Afghans Who Carried Out Its Mission”, The Intercept, January 23, 2022.
Operation 620 – Assisting Stranded Afghans. Beth Bailey, a freelance writer and volunteer with Operation 620, provides an inside look at one of the volunteer veteran organizations involved in the support and evacuation of at-risk Afghans from Afghanistan. Operation 620 receives requests for help from Afghans every day – a pace that keeps its 20 volunteer case managers extremely busy. The organization sees the work supporting Afghans going far into the future. “As some evacuation groups fold, Operation 620 grows to serve stranded Afghans”, Washington Examiner, January 24, 2022.
Afghans at Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo. There are still some Afghan evacuees being held in a camp in Kosovo. This has been the holding spot for those evacuated from Kabul in August 2021 who have not quite passed the security vetting necessary to gain entry to the United States. Fewer than ten Afghans have been declared ineligible for entry after disqualifying information about them was discovered during an extensive vetting process. Another 90 remain at the camp undergoing the security vetting process. “Afghans Housed at Military Base in Kosovo Risk Being Denied Entry to U.S. for Alleged Terrorist Ties”, The Wall Street Journal, January 21, 2022.
Torkhum Border Crossing to Safety. Boarding a minibus with just a backpack an Afghan makes his way to the Pakistan border. His former work with NATO put him in great jeopardy. He had an online visa for Pakistan but had to work his way through the thousands of people crowding the gate. Now in Pakistan he is hoping that a NATO country will offer him refuge before he is policed up by Pakistan security and returned to Afghanistan. “I had no hope left: Ex-NATO contractor forced to walk across Afghan border”, Open Democracy, January 24, 2022.
Australia – More Visas Needed for Afghans. The Australian government announced on Friday that it will be allocating 15,000 visas to Afghans over the next four years. There have been over 30,000 applications for visas by Afghans. Compounding this numbers crunch is that 4,300 Afghans who were evacuated during August 2021 and already in Australia are counted against the 15,000 visas. “Australia must heed urgent calls for increased visa places for Afghans”, The Sydney Morning Herald, January 24, 2022.
At-Risk Afghans Abandoned While Others Stream Across the Southern Border. The Department of State is holding firm on its strict requirements of ‘legal immigration status’ when determining which Afghans can fly from the Emirate Humanitarian City in the United Arab Emirates or board the very infrequent DoS sanctioned flights from Kabul to Qatar. As a result, very few Afghans have made it to the United States in recent months. Many of these Afghans worked with the U.S. military or other U.S. organizations during the U.S. involvement in the Afghan conflict. U.S. military veterans and others believe we should help these individuals who are now at risk of Taliban persecution, detention, torture, or even death. This strict adherence to ‘the rules’ applied by the U.S. government to Afghans is perplexing.
On our southern border over 2 million illegal border crossers were encountered in 2021. Of these, more than 800,000 were released into the United States. A great many more illegally crossed the border and were not detained. None of these people who crossed the southern border fought alongside Americans in combat. Why the favored treatment to those crossing our borders illegally over Afghans who fought alongside our military veterans in combat? “Two million stopped while illegally entering US from Mexico in 2021”, by Anna Giaritelli, Washington Examiner, January 24, 2022.
Canada’s Slow Pace Admitting Afghan Refugees. Many of the Afghans desperate for rescue are people who put their lives at risk assisting Canadians. “Canada is still admitting Afghan refugees at a glacial pace. Justin Trudeau must set a fire underneath our immigration officials”, The Star, January 23, 2022.
Afghan Evacuee Resettlement
New Home in NH. A organization based in the northeast says that it will be resettling at least 500 Afghans in 2022 in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. The International Institute of New England sees housing as its biggest problem. It has settled families in Manchester, NH and Boston and Lowell, MA. Once housing is coordinated the next task is finding the Afghans a job. “With community support, Afghan evacuees are making NH home“, Union Leader, January 23, 2022.
Team Rubicon – Helping in Milwaukee and Across the Country. Volunteers with the national disaster relief organization have been managing a massive logistical operation to direct donations to Afghan families resettling in the Milwaukee area. In addition, the organization is busy across the entire country. “Inside the massive effort to organize 250,000 donations for Afghan families resettling in Milwaukee”, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, January 24, 2022.
A Long Visit at the Extended Stay. Some Afghan families left Afghanistan during the August 2021 airlift and are still waiting to be resettled. Many are on military bases but some have left . . . for a life in a hotel room. “Volunteers Help Afghan Refugees With Food and Supplies”, CBS Baltimore, January 23, 2022.
Afghan Fulbright Scholars – Uncertainty Lies Ahead. Since 2003, more than 950 Afghans have received Fulbright scholarships – mostly 2-year master’s degree programs. Currently there are around 100 Afghans on a scholarship who are supposed to return to Afghanistan after they complete their studies. There appears to be no plan by the Department of State to waive the Fulbright requirement for the Afghan students to return to their home country after their studies are completed. Like everything else concerning Afghanistan, the Department of State is a little slow figuring this thing out. “Afghan Students in US Face Uncertain Future”, Voice of America, January 23, 2022.
News About Afghanistan
International Conference in Norway. Several nations are attending a three-day event in Oslo that includes representatives from the Taliban regime. A representative of the Taliban said that this will help the legitimacy of the new regime in Kabul. Many critics say that the conference is a step in the wrong direction – an unofficial recognition that the Taliban do not deserve. One of the intentions of the conference is to find a way to help the Afghan people who are struggling with a humanitarian crisis of huge proportions. The talks are also a venue for the discussion of human rights. “Taliban talks in Norway raise new debate about recognition”, by David Keyton, Associated Press News, January 23, 2022. Read more in “Taliban begin talks with Western officials in Olso”, BBC News, January 24, 2022.
Why the Republic Fell – According to Mohib. Former National Security Advisor for the Ghani government, Hamdullah Mohib, offers his perspective on the demise of the Afghan government over the course of the summer of 2021. He said that there were multiple causes. One was the lack of political cohesiveness and unity. Another was divergent viewpoints on security issues inside the government – making security analysis problematic and security meetings ineffective. A third factor was the transition of the United States from Afghanistan to other threats posed by strategic competitors – China and Russia; as well as regional threats posed by Iran and North Korea. He cited the announcement in April 2021 by President Biden of the complete withdrawal from Afghanistan as the tipping point from which there was no recovery. “Ex-NSA Mohib Lists Causes for Republic’s Fall”, Tolo News, January 23, 2022.
Price (DoS) Defending the Withdrawal. Afghanistan has slipped from the national media – most news is focused on Ukraine and a possible invasion of that country by Russia. However, every once in a while a reporter will ask a DoD or DoS spokesman a question on Afghanistan. In Monday’s (Jan 24th) Department of State press briefing Ned Price was asked about the United States withdrawal in Afghanistan and the perception that the U.S. turned its back on its Afghan allies. Ned answered with the often repeated explanation and defense of the Biden administrations withdrawal . . . once again. “Department Press Briefing – January 24, 2022”, Jan 24, 2022.
Life Under the Taliban
Kabul Security Camera System Re-activated. Thousands of security cameras deployed across Kabul and other cities are tied into a database center that collects information on crime. At one time it was maintained by foreigners. According to the Ministry of Interior (MoI) the system has been brought back online. “Database, Security Cameras Reactivated: MoI”, Tolo News, January 22, 2022.
Afghanistan – Before and After August 2021. Shandana Khan describes working in Afghanistan before the ascendency of the Taliban and the strife suffered by Afghans afterward. “Of Hope, Turmoil and Beyond: My Afghanistan”, Friday Times (PK), January 24, 2022.
Humanitarian Assistance and Economy
Helping Afghanistan – Efforts Fall Short. Ben Fox describes the terrible conditions that Afghans are living under – especially now that they are in the midst of a harsh winter. He outlines how things went downhill so quickly, points out what the United States has done thus far to assist, and provides information on further efforts that are needed. “Why effort to help Afghanistan is falling short”, Associated Press News, January 24, 2022.
United Nations in Afghanistan. Sultan Barakat and Richard Ponzio outlines the activities conducted by the UN and provides a perspective on what the UN should be doing in Afghanistan. “The UN’s Vital Role in Afghanistan”, Inter Press Service News Agency, January 24, 2022.
Commentary, Analysis, and Opinion
The Afghans Left Behind. Annie Tiger is the pseudonym of an Afghan-born veteran of the U.S. military who served multiple combat deployments. She is a highly decorated officer whose service includes over a decade with U.S. special operations and the intelligence community. She argues that the inaction on the part of the U.S. government signs the death warrants on those we pledged to protect. She presents seven recommendations for a ‘course correction’ in “What America Owes the Afghans We Left Behind”, National Review, January 16, 2022.
Biden’s Self-Inflicted Wound. Many observers of the Afghan conflict doubted that the Afghan security forces could withstand a Taliban offensive without the important logistical and maintenance support provided by over 18,000 foreign contractors to the Afghan National Army and the Afghan Air Force. In fact, a Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said as much in a January 2021 report. Noah Rothman explains in “The Afghanistan Withdrawal’s Smoking Gun Emerges”, Commentary, January 19, 2022.
Haqqani Network – A Dangerous Threat. Melissa Skorka, an accomplished observer of Afghanistan, explains why America can’t take on the Haqqani Network alone. The most powerful faction of the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, continues to maintain ties with al Qaeda and to some elements of the Islamic State Khorasan (or ISIS-K). The leader of the Haqqani Network, Sirajuddin Haqqani, is the head of the Afghan Interior Ministry – controlling the nation’s police and intelligence organizations. The Haqqanis have benefited from long-standing backing from Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and enjoys support from other nations as well.
Melissa Skorka points out that there are two “ISIS-Ks” in Afghanistan: ISIS-Khorasan and ISIS-Kabul. She contends that ISIS-Kabul is supported by the Haqqanis. Skorka argues that the Haqqanis need to be contained in Afghanistan to prevent it from becoming a breeding ground and sanctuary for international terrorism. The best way for the United States to accomplish this goal is through cooperation in a multilateral approach with other nations. “Afghanistan’s Most Dangerous Threat”, Foreign Affairs, January 24, 2022.
Guantanamo – Lessons for the Current Administration. John Bellinger served as a lawyer in private practice and with the U.S. government. He spent a good amount of time immersed in the activities of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. “Guantanamo Bay: Twenty Years Later”, Lawfare, January 24, 2022.
Podcast – Afghanistan – Who Came to the USA and Who Got Left Behind. A retired U.S. Army Ranger and founder of Project Exodus Relief informs us of ‘who came’ and who’s still waiting. His organization is concerned about the Afghan special forces personnel who fought alongside American forces and who are now persecuted by the Taliban. The Justin American Podcast, December 24, 2021, 55 minutes.
Photo: Marine Corps Capt. Serena Simeoli, assigned to the Female Engagement Team, 1st Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, assists Afghan evacuees with creating resumes at Fort Pickett, Va., Jan. 18, 2022. Photo by Marine Corps Lance Cpl. David Intriago.