Topics: News about Afghanistan, immigration, resettlement, humanitarian crisis, commentary, books, podcasts, events, and more.
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Few Ways Out. In the year following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, tens of thousands of Afghans who worked for the U.S. military or government agencies have been left in a bureaucratic limbo. They face an uncertain and dangerous future due to their association with the United States during its 20-year involvement in the Afghan conflict. There are currently 73,000 Special Immigrant Visa applicants who are part of the State Department backlog. In addition; journalists, humanitarians, social activists, and former members of the elite Afghan special operations forces are all facing possible beatings and jail. Some have simply ‘disappeared’ after arrest. Read more in “Since the Taliban takeover, Afghans hoping to leave Afghanistan have few ways out”, by D. Parvaz, National Public Radio, October 3, 2022.
No Way to Leave Afghanistan. Thousands of at-risk Afghans need practical, accessible, and legal routes to international protection. However, the avenues for leaving the country are very limited. Many Afghans, associated with the former regime or western nations, are being targeted by the Taliban and are in hiding. “Unable to Leave: The Afghans Stuck in Afghanistan”, The Diplomat, October 12, 2022.
Afghan Passports. The issuance and distribution process of Afghan passports has been suspended beginning on October 8th. Technical teams are working on repairing equipment used by the Passport Department. The equipment, which prints almost 5,000 passports a day, need to be repaired or replaced periodically. “Taliban Suspends Issuing Afghan Passports”, Khaama Press, October 8, 2022.
Escape of the Sikh Community. India has become a temporary home for many Sikhs who have departed Afghanistan. A group of 55 Afghan Sikhs arrived in India in late September. Only a handful remain in the country. Afghan Sikhs numbered in the thousands during the 1980s; but due to decades of conflict and persecution, only a few hundred were left when the Taliban took power in August 2021. The Indian government has been assisting in their relocation with visas, resident permits, and evacuation flights. However, for those Afghan Sikhs who have arrived in India, many challenges remain. “Afghanistan’s Dwindling Sikh Community Escapes to India”, Voice of America, October 11, 2022.
US Changes Up Afghan Evacuation Process. The United States is ending the temporary humanitarian parole program for Afghans in October. It will be focusing efforts and resources on permanent visas in an effort to speed up the procedure for some Afghan refugees and those in the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program. The Department of State will be focused on providing Afghan refugees who have routes to permanent residence. “US to Expedite Afghan Refugee Permanent Visas Rather Than Continuing Parole Program”, Khaama Press, October 8, 2022.
DoS and Unanswered Questions. An increasing number of Afghans are seeking humanitarian visas to Brazil. Once in South America, they undertake a dangerous and expensive journey to the United States by crossing the porous southern border with Mexico. Afghans are risking their lives to find asylum in the U.S. due to the interminable visa and refugee processing backlogs. “US government agencies fail to answer key questions on Afghanistan evacuations”, Washington Examiner, October 9, 2022.
Canada Takes In 326 Afghans from Tajikistan. A chartered flight carrying Afghan refugees left Dushanbe, Tajikistan with a destination of Canada. The country is continuing the process of relocating at-risk Afghans from countries around the world. It has recently taken a significant number of Afghans from the Emirates Humanitarian City (EHC) in the United Arab Emirates. “Chartered Flight Carrying Over 300 Afghans Lands in Canada”, Khaama Press, October 13, 2022.
NCC Now Closed. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced that all Afghan nationals have departed the safe haven facility at the National Conference Center (NCC) in Leesburg, Virginia. They have now been relocated to communities across the United States. Afghan nationals arriving from overseas as part of the relocation effort by the Department of State will now travel directly to their new communities without a safe haven stop-over in the United States. (DHS, Sep 27, 2022).
Unaccompanied Afghan Children in U.S. About one hundred Afghan youth remain in United States government custody without their parents. Most are placed in shelters and other congregate care settings. Over the past year, hundreds of Afghan youth have been released to sponsors – yet significant issues plague the system serving the unaccompanied minors. “Afghan Children Are Suffering in the U.S. Immigration System”, Time.com, October 6, 2022.
Afghan Pilot Fighting US Wildfires. A former pilot with the Afghan Air Force is now flying in the Pacific Northwest to spot wildfires and direct fire fighting crews to the fire. He now flies a single-engine turboprop Pilatus PC-12. Not too long ago, he was a pilot of a Combat Caravan Cessna AC-208 that was rigged with weapons to attack the Taliban. Afghan pilots have been assisted in evacuation and resettlement by groups such as Operation Sacred Promise and the Moral Compass Federation. Read more in “Afghan Pilot Who Bombed the Taliban Now Flying Recon to Combat US Wildfires”, Military.com, October 5, 2022.
Evacuation and Resettlement of Team A. One man tried to assist a number of Afghans upon their arrival in the United States at Dulles Expo Center in Washington, D.C in August 2021. He convinced them to bypass the immigration process at a refugee camp on a military base in Texas and to rely on his resources and coordination for resettlement. It didn’t turn out as well as he thought. “The Evacuation of Team A”, Intelligencer, October 11, 2022.
Finland and Refugees. Authorities in Finland have announced that the country will accept a total of 1,050 refugees in 2023. The majority of the refugees will come from Syria, Afghanistan, and countries in Africa. The Afghan refugee, about 210, are currently in Iran. “Finland to Accept 1,050 Refugees in 2023”, Schenganvisa, October 12, 2022.
High Cost of College. During the Kabul non-combatant evacuation operation 148 female students from the Asian University for Women boarded ten buses for the Kabul International Airport. After 40 hours on the buses they were finally allowed by the Taliban and U.S. military officials onto the airport. They were flown to Spain and eventually ended up on a U.S. military base in the United States. Many of them were offered entrance to degree-producing programs across the country. Some got full scholarships while others found that a college degree in the United States is expensive. “They escaped the Taliban. Now these women in Wisconsin face a new foe: the high cost of college”, Wisconsin Watch, October 13, 2022.
News About Afghanistan
VanDiver Profile and Afghan Evac. The head of the Afghan Evac coalition, Shawn VanDiver, is featured in a recent news article. A resident of California, he has been a leading activist and advocate for the relocation of at-risk Afghans to the United States. One of his major projects is the passage of the Afghan Adjustment Act by Congress. He started out as an enlisted sailor battling his chain of command and is now a political activist fielding phone calls from the White House. “He found his activist voice in the Navy. Now this San Diego veteran is being courted by Washington”, The San Diego Union-Tribune, October 10, 2022.
New DoS Sanctions and the TB. On October 11th the Department of State announced new sanctions against current or former Taliban members who are responsible for the repression of women in Afghanistan. The Taliban did not take the news very well and are calling them an impediment to the development of ties between the two countries. “Taliban Urge US to Review New Sanctions, Calling Them Hurdle in Furthering Ties”, Voice of America, October 12, 2022.
ISIS-K Attacks. Over the past year a number of attacks against mosques in Afghanistan have been conducted by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria – Khorasan. Shia mosques have been attacked in greater frequency since the Taliban took over in August 2021. The group is at war with the western world and Muslims who criticize the salafi-jihadist interpretation of the Qur’an. “What’s Behind ISIS Khorasan’s Relentless Attacks on Mosques in Afghanistan?”, by Mahmut Cengiz, HS Today, October 7, 2022.
NRF Warns West on Terrorism in Afghanistan. The leader of the National Resistance Front is warning the West that Afghanistan has returned to being a home for terrorist groups. Ahmad Massoud says that the Afghanistan of 2022 resembles the terrorist training camp sanctuary of 2001. He reports that more than twenty international terrorist groups are operating openly in Afghanistan. Read more in “Ahmad Massoud Warns the West Again”, by Dan O’Shea, Armed Forces Press, October 12, 2022.
The TB and Social Media. Zafar Iqbal Yousafzai, an Islamabad-based columnist and author, provides his perspective on how the Taliban have been effectively using Twitter to build popular support. “The Taliban’s Use of Twitter as a Tool to Spread their Voice”, Global Network on Extremism & Technology, October 12, 2022.
U.S. and IEA Delegations Meet. United States officials met with officials of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) on October 8th in Qatar. This the first face-to-face meeting since before the end of July 2022. (Ariana News, Oct 9, 2022).
Trump Wanted Quick Withdrawal From Afghanistan. In the wake of his 2020 loss to Joe Biden in the presidential election President Trump ordered an immediate withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. At the time, there were about 8,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. “Trump ordered rapid withdrawal from Afghanistan after election loss”, Army Times, October 13, 2022.
Life Under the Taliban
Life in a Remote Valley in Kunar Province. Franz J. Marty, a freelance journalist in Kabul, writes about living under the Taliban regime in a distant valley of eastern Afghanistan. Read “Life in a Far-Flung Corner of the Taliban Emirate”, The Diplomat, October 11, 2022.
Afghan Media and Disinformation. The Taliban have censored the media inside Afghanistan and are now using social media to spread false information. Almost half of the Afghan media outlets have closed since the Taliban takeover due to financial, social, and political issues. The vast majority of female Afghan journalists have lost their jobs while those that remain endure severe restrictions. “Fading Afghan Media Give Space to Disinformation”, by Akmal Dawi, Voice of America, October 4, 2022.
Life for Women in Afghanistan. The country is the worst place in the world to be a woman while the Taliban are in power. The new regime has erased the rights that Afghan women had gained over the previous two decades. “What Afghans Want the Rest of the World to Know”, by Bushra Seddique, The Atlantic, October 9, 2022.
Humanitarian Assistance and Economy
Afghan Economic Growth – Reversed. The United Nations Development Programme has published an summary of the economic decline of Afghanistan over the past year. It states that since the takeover of the Taliban in August 2021 the country experienced severe economic hardship. The cost of food has risen 35%, 700,000 jobs have vanished, and the country is in the midst of a humanitarian crisis. “Ten years of Afghan economic growth, reversed in just 12 months: UNDP”, United Nations News, October 5, 2022.
Afghanistan’s Funds. The country continues to face economic paralysis and is in the midst of a humanitarian crisis. In order to receive new foreign assistance in the future Afghanistan needs to stay current on what it owes international economic institutions like the World Bank. There is the possibility that money from the Afghan Fund can be used for this purpose. Read more in “Uncertainty Surrounds Billions of Dollars in Afghanistan’s Funds”, Voice of America, October 12, 2022.
Books, Reports, Podcasts, Videos, and Events
Online Panel Event – ORF. Afghanistan Under the Taliban: One Year Forward, Twenty-five Years Backward. Observer Research Foundation (ORF), October 7, 2022.
Report – Taliban: Structure, Strategy, Agenda, and the International Terrorism Threat, by Ajmal Sohail, European Eye on Radicalization, October 2022, PDF 21 pages.
Podcast – Escape From Kabul. This episode of “Hot Wash” features Jamie Roberts, the director of the a new documentary on HBO/Max entitled “Escape From Kabul“. The documentary is about the chaotic evacuation of civilians from Afghanistan in August 2021. Real Clear Defense, October 7, 2022, 34 minutes.
Video – Joan Barker, Special Ops Contractor Training Afghan Partners. A consultant specializing in military language and culture training, Joan Barker has worked overseas in a number of countries to include Afghanistan. Since mid-summer 2021 she has been actively engaged in the Afghan Evac effort. The hosts of The Team House interview her about her work overseas and her efforts in the relocation and resettlement of Afghan evacuees. October 10, 2022, 2 hours.
Book – Operation Pineapple Express. Scott Mann’s book describes how he and others assisted at-risk Afghans in their escape from Afghanistan in the days following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in mid-August 2021. Mann is interviewed about his book and the events of the Kabul NEO and year following that disastrous time. Read more in “How the Pineapple Express saved 1,000 Afghans from the Taliban”, The Christian Science Monitor, October 12, 2022.
Image by Mohammad Maisam Sultani, M.M.S., @forestsparkles