Afghanistan Update – January 2024


Topics: News about Afghanistan, relocation, immigration, resettlement, humanitarian crisis, commentary, books, podcasts, events, and more.

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Relocation from Afghanistan

Leaving Afghanistan

The Rush for Passports. For a period of time in January the Taliban suspended online applications. This has men and women flocking to the central passport office in Kabul. People are forming long lines at midnight in freezing weather in hopes they will be seen the next day. In the past two years hundreds of thousands of Afghans have attempted to obtain passports; but the process is marred by corruption, excessive fees, and long delays. “Why Are Afghans Rushing to Acquire Passports?”, Radio Free Europe, January 12, 2024.

Forcible Return from Pakistan to Afghanistan. Since the start of Pakistan’s latest deportation campaign, nearly a million Afghans have returned to their country of origin. Some were born and brought up in Pakistan but lack the legal documentation to remain there. One family describes their return in “The Daily Hustle: ‘Packing up a life’ in Pakistan and being forcibly returned to Afghanistan”, Afghanistan Analysts Network, January 7, 2024.

Hope for Afghan Veterans of CF333 and ATF444. Former members of “the Triples”, CF333 and CF444, that were trained and funded by the United Kingdom may soon be eligible for relocation from Afghanistan and Pakistan. Some members of the Triples have been hunted down by the Taliban – detained, tortured, and killed. There are likely hundreds left in Afghanistan and an estimated 200 now in Pakistan. “Afghan special forces heroes set for sanctuary in UK after government U-turn”, Independent, January 29, 2024.

Remains of American Woman Return to the U.S. An aid worker abducted in January 2008 has finally returned to the United States. Cydney Mizell was teaching English in southern Afghanistan when she was abducted and then killed. The F.B.I. and members of the Hostage Recovery Fusion Cell were instrumental in bringing her remains home. A $5m reward is believed to have assisted in resolving the case. “After Years, F.B.I. Recovers Remains of American Women in Afghanistan”, The New York Times, January 23, 2024. (subscription)

HH-60 Rescue Ops During Kabul NEO. Members of a helicopter unit have received awards for their role in the non-combatant evacuation operation (NEO) of August 2021. “Helicopter pilot details final days of HH-60 rescue ops in Afghanistan”, Air Force Times, January 23, 2024.

Terminology – Refugees or Migrants. There are different reasons and motivations for people to move from one country to another. And there are different international legal obligations that arise and apply to those who are traveling across borders. “Refugees or Migrants? How word choices affect rights and lives”, UNHCR, December 19, 2023.

Banner Resettlement Afghan Evacuees

Afghan Resettlement

Former Afghan Female Fighter – Life in the US. Over the course of two years a former member of the Female Tactical Platoon has adjusted to life in the United States. She spent years working with US Army Special Forces and then was evacuated out of Kabul once the Taliban took over in August 2021. (The World, 17 Jan 2024)

Sending Money Home. Many Afghan men are working in the Middle East and sending a lot of their wages home to help their families. A recent report delves into the experiences of Afghan men working in the Gulf and how the money they send home is a lifeline for their families and communities. “Sending Money Home: The impact of remittances on workers, families and villages”, Afghanistan Analysts Network, January 25, 2024.

Former Judges Now Visiting Scholars. Two female judges who fled Afghanistan after the Taliban returned to power have been appointed as visiting scholars in public policy at Dartmouth College. “Former Judges From Afghanistan to be Visiting Scholars”,, January 4, 2024.

Banner News about Afghanistan

News About Afghanistan

Regional Meeting in Kabul. The Taliban hosted their first international meeting on Monday, January 30, 2024, since taking power in August 2021. Representatives from Kazakhstan, Turkey, Russia, China, Iran, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Indonesia, and Kyrgyzstan. The meeting, entitled the Afghanistan Regional Cooperation Initiative, was aimed at promoting economic connectivity and cooperation with regional countries. “Afghanistan’s Taliban Host Multilateral Huddle to Promote Regional Cooperation”, Voice of America, January 29, 2024.

India – Engaging with the Taliban. Indian representatives recently attended a meeting in Kabul with participation from regional countries. One of the purposes of the meeting was promoting constructive engagement with the Taliban government. “India engages with Taliban’s government despite non-recognition”, Deccan Herald, January 29, 2023.

Pakistan – Iran Exchange Airstrikes. On Tuesday, January 16th, Iran launched missiles at targets in Pakistan that had terrorists of Iranian nationality. In retaliation, early on Thursday morning, January 18th, Pakistan launched missile and aircraft strikes against what it says were targets containing Pakistan terrorists located in Iran. The terrorists targeted by Pakistan were likely from the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA). See map of Iran and Pakistan region (NSI).

Iran, Afghanistan, and the ISKP. One of the principal foes of the Taliban is the Islamic State Khorasan Province. This insurgent/terrorist organization has also conducted terrorist operations in Iran. This ‘common enemy’ could lead to Tehran working with Kabul in cross-border operations against the ISKP. Read more in an article by Anant Mishra and Christian Kaunert – “Iran Moves Toward Greater Cooperation With Taliban”, The Diplomat, January 29, 2024.

Life Under the Taliban

Report – Taliban Rule at 2.5 Years. Haroun Rahimi and Andrew Watkins examine governance of Afghanistan and its foreign relations over the past few years since the Taliban took power in August 2021. CTC Sentinel, Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, January 2024, PDF, 16 pages.

Corruption. The latest report by the International Transparency Organization shows that Afghanistan is now ranking 162nd out of 180 nations in the Corruption Perceptions Index for 2023. The score runs from 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean). Afghanistan scored a 20 in 2023, reflecting a change of -4 since 2022. It shares a common ranking with Burundi, Chad, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Myanmar, Sudan, Haiti, Venezuela, and other like nations.

Surviving in Afghanistan. Child marriages have skyrocketed across Afghanistan due to an economic collapse and dim future prospects for girls under Taliban rule. Selling a daughter into marriage can bring enough to feed a family for a year and many families take that desperate step for survival. “In the new Afghanistan, it’s sell your daughter or starve”, The Washington Post, January 15, 2024. (subscription)

Oppression of Women. The Taliban are now arresting women for inadequate adherence to Islamic dress codes. These arrests are not an isolated occurrence according to some observers. “The Agonizing Plight of Afghanistan’s Hazara Women”, New Security Beat, January 31, 2024.

Media Freedom in Afghanistan. The Afghanistan Journalists Center (AFJC) has published its report on the state of journalists and media in Afghanistan in 2023. According to the report, journalists and media in Afghanistan faced severe restrictions and violations of their fundamental and legal rights throughout 2023, impeding their freedom and ability to work. (AFJC, Dec 29, 2023)

Humanitarian assistance and economy in Afghanistan

Humanitarian Assistance and Economy

Humanitarian Crisis. Since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021, the country has been in a crippling economic crisis. This is compounded due to decades of conflict and recent natural disasters. Over 40 per cent of the population is struggling to meet their basic food needs. “The continuing tragedy of Afghanistan”, United Nations, January 25, 2024.

Aid to Kabul. According to a report by the Special Inspector General for the Reconstruction of Afghanistan (SIGAR), Afghanistan receives $80 million twice a month. The funds are deposited into Afghan banks in accounts managed by the United Nations. That money is then spent, through aid organizations, on education, health, and development projects. “Afghanistan Receives $80M Every 14 Days: SIGAR”, Tolo News, January 20, 2024. See also “US Lawmaker Question Whether Aid is Benefiting Taliban”, Voice of America, January 11, 2024.

Solar Power. The United Nations Development Programme is working to alleviate the energy challenges of Afghanistan through the implementation of solar power. It is installing solar systems across the country – with a focus on health and educational structures. “Harnessing the sun to power Afghanistan’s development”, UNDP, January 26, 2024.

Foreign Aid Cuts. Some families are now forced to choose between eating their one meal during the day or night. “In a neglected part of Afghanistan, foreign aid cuts lead to hard winter choices”, The New Humanitarian, January 30, 2024.

Warm Winter = Drought. Afghanistan is experiencing a dry and warm winter which could cause the country to suffer a lack of water during the growing season later this year. Many rural Afghans depend on subsistence agriculture and raising livestock to survive. A lack of water during the growing season will exacerbate the economic and humanitarian crisis. “Afghanistan’s Warm Winter Triggers Warning of Server Drought”, Radio Free Europe, January 26, 2024.

Banner Commentary about Afghanistan

History, Commentary, Analysis, and Opinion

Protecting Afghanistan’s Cultural Heritage. Afghanistan is at the crossroads of historic civilizations from the Near East, South Asia, China, and Central Asia. Over past decades, numerous archeological treasures have been destroyed or stolen. The Taliban’s dynamiting of the Bamiyan Buddha is one glaring example. After returning to power in August 2021, the Taliban have proclaimed support for Afghanistan’s cultural heritage. However, there are doubts about the Taliban’s commitment to this goal. “Conserving Afghanistan’s Cultural Heritage Under Taliban Rule”, by William Mao, Harvard International Review, January 29, 2024.

Islamic State. Antonio Giustozzi has followed events in Afghanistan for many years. He provides an analysis that provides a balanced assessment of the state of IS-K. Is it almost defeated or is it on the ascendence? “The Islamic State in Khorasan between Taliban counter-terrorism and resurgence prospects”, ICCT, January 30, 2024.

Operation Cyclone – Some History. The CIA’s covert military assistance program to support Afghan resistance fighters opposing the Soviet Union occupation of Afghanistan was initiated in 1979. The secret program would last until 1989. It embroiled the Soviets in a long quagmire that was partly responsible for the fall of the communist dictatorship in the Soviet Union. “Operation Cyclone: the CIA’s covert program to arm the mujahideen”, by Jessica Evans, We Are The Mighty, January 17, 2024.

Video – U.S. Withdrawal from Kabul Left Thousands of Afghan Allies Behind, CNN World, January 30, 2024, 6 minutes. Watch the video.

Learning from Afghanistan. The U.S. military must understand its failures in Afghanistan to succeed in strategic competition. Failure to learn and adapt could end in similar disaster with greater strategic consequences. “Learning from Failure: Afghanistan as a Microcosm for Strategic Competition”, by Paul Bailey, Irregular Warfare Initiative, January 4, 2024.

Engaging With the Taliban? International observers are arguing that engaging with the current regime in Afghanistan will lead to moderation in policies. However, many observers believe this is a faulty premise. “Engaging With the Taliban Doesn’t Work”, The Diplomat, January 26, 2024.

banner - resources for Afghans and Afghan Evac Volunteers

Resources for Afghans and Afghan Evac Volunteers

#AfghanEvac Resources. The #AfghanEvac Coalition frequently updates its “Resources” webpage to assist volunteers with casework help and the navigation of the complex immigration process. It has a list of resources for Afghan allies, volunteer advocates, and advocacy organizations.

#AfghanEvac Caseworker Guide. The #AfghanEvac Coalition has published (Sep 2023) a guide to assist those in the Afghan evac community who are assisting in the relocation and resettlement of Afghans to the United States. It has been compiled based on #AfghanEvac volunteers’ professional and lived experience, meetings with U.S. Government officials, and the sharing of best practices across the coalition ecosystem. It is subject to change and the information contained therein is not, and should not be considered, legal advice. PDF, 44 pages.

Office of the Special Coordinator for Afghanistan. The Department of Defense recently published a website with resources about Afghanistan. Afghan Report, January 8, 2024.

Books about Afghanistan

Banner Books about Afghanistan

Check out books about Afghanistan, the Taliban, decades of war, culture, Kabul NEO, and more.

Photo: Image by Mohammad Maisam Sultani, M.M.S., @forestsparkles