Afghanistan Update – September 2023

Afghan Child Welcomed to Quantico

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

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Relocation from Afghanistan

Leaving Afghanistan

Balkan Route for Afghans. Many Afghans fleeing Afghanistan have attempted to leave via smuggling routes that go through Iran, Turkey and on to Europe. One such route has been named the “Balkan Route”. Like many other illegal methods of entering Europe, it has its dangers. The Afghanistan Analyst Network has produced a comprehensive report of the route that leads to Croatia and Serbia. “Keep on Moving on the Balkan Route: No quarter for Afghan asylum seekers in Croatia and Serbia”, AAN, September 26, 2023.

Brazil Route for Afghans. The Brazilian government has announced a change in the humanitarian reception policy for Afghans on the grounds that Brazil has established itself as a gateway for immigrants who, fleeing the Taliban, seek to emigrate to the United States along dangerous routes. “Brazil Alters Reception Policy for Afghans and Wants to Stop Being a Route to the USA”, Folha De S. Paulo, September 27, 2023.

Deportation From Pakistan. The caretaker cabinet in Pakistan on September 26 has given authorities the go-ahead to deport foreign nationals residing illegally in the country. This includes illegal Afghan refugees who sought shelter in Pakistan following the Taliban takeover two years ago. “Pakistan Is Planning to Deport More Than a Million Illegal Afghan Refugees”, Radio Free Europe, September 29, 2023.

Evacuation Questions in U.S. Congress. Republican senators on Thursday tore into President Joe Biden’s nominee to be the Pentagon’s policy chief over the role he played in the Afghanistan evacuation when he was a State Department official. During Derek Chollet’s (Wikipedia bio) confirmation hearing to be the undersecretary of Defense for policy before the Senate Armed Services Committee, republican Senators called out what they characterized as the State Department’s failure to evacuate American citizens during and after the withdrawal. “GOP senators rough up Pentagon nominee over Afghanistan evacuation”, Politico, September 28, 2023.

Kabul NEO and JPME. Gary Anderson, a retired Marine Corps officer with a lot of Afghanistan experience, laments the deplorable state of our military professional education system. He points to the chaotic Afghan withdrawal of the summer of 2021 as well as the chaotic non-combatant evacuation operation at Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA) as an example. He questions why our top generals didn’t push the Department of State to stage the NEO out of Bagram Air Field instead of HKIA. Read more in “Why Our Generals Can’t Think”, September 2023.

Banner Resettlement Afghan Evacuees

Afghan Resettlement

U.S. Ruling on Asylum. In May 2023 the Biden Administration released a ‘final rule’ on arriving aliens seeking asylum. This rule was issued in anticipation of increased migration at the U.S. Southwest border following the termination of a public health order (Title 42) issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Congressional Research Service (CRS) has issued two ‘Legal Sidebars’ that examine the statutory framework governing individuals arriving at the border seeking asylum and, on the rule’s legal considerations. The Biden Administration’s Final Rule on Arriving Aliens Seeking Asylum, Part One (PDF, 5 pages) and Part Two (PDF, 4 pages), September 21, 2023.

USCIS – Fee Exemptions and Expedited Processing. On September 29, 2023, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that it is extending and expanding previously announced filling fee exemptions and expedited application processing for certain Afghan nationals. This will help in the resettlement process and, in some cases, reunite the family in the United States.

Family Reunification. The U.S. Department of State has updated its “Family Reunification for Afghans” webpage. The page describes the different immigration options for Afghan family reunification based on citizenship, immigration status, and how the Afghan entered the United States. Updated Sep 2023.

Banner News about Afghanistan

News About Afghanistan

NRF Promises Guerrilla Warfare. The exiled leader of the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan said that the only way for the Taliban to achieve legitimacy would be to hold elections. The prospect for that happening is dim; so, the NRF will be using guerrilla warfare to bring the hardline Islamists to the negotiating table. “No current talks with Taliban, Afghanistan’s Massoud says, promising guerrilla warfare”, Reuters, September 29, 2023.

Afghan Embassy in India Closes. The Afghan embassy in India has suspended all operations after the ambassador and other senior diplomats left the country for Europe and the United States where they gained asylum, three embassy officials said on Friday. India does not recognize the Taliban government, and closed its own embassy in Kabul after the Taliban took control in 2021, but New Delhi had allowed the ambassador and mission staff appointed by the Western-backed government of ousted Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to issue visas and handle trade matters. The Indian government will now take over the diplomatic compound in a caretaker capacity. (Reuters, Sep 29, 2023)

Life Under the Taliban

Justice System. The Taliban dismantled Afghanistan’s attorney-general office in 2021, deeming it an unnecessary bureaucratic appendage that fostered corruption and inefficiency. “Taliban Undertake Speedy Overhaul of Afghanistan’s Justice System”, Voice of America, September 28, 2023.

Limited Access to Information. A recent survey by the Afghan National Journalists Union shows that the suspension of the 2014 Access to Information Law in August 2021 has had dramatic effects on how access to information from the government has hit a new low. “Afghanistan: Survey shows lack of access to information leaves society in the dark”, International Federation of Journalists, September 28, 2023.

Humanitarian assistance and economy in Afghanistan

Humanitarian Assistance and Economy

Humanitarian NGOs and Biometrics. When the US troops left Afghanistan, it left behind a robust system of biometric data collection (iris scans, fingerprints, etc.) that was employed by the Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Interior. The fear is that this data can be used by the Taliban to hunt down former members of the previous government and armed forces. But the Afghan government (and the U.S.) isn’t the only organizations collecting biometrics. A reliance on biometric data in the humanitarian sector is on the rise, despite growing evidence of the risks. “Fears mount over NGOs gathering biometric data, Geographical, September 26, 2023.

Humanitarian Aid. Matiullah Qazizada writes that despite significant hurdles, aid has continued to bolster the country’s employment, education, and banking sectors. He provides some facts and figures about the current economic situation in Afghanistan. He states that since the Taliban takeover, humanitarian aid has had a positive impact by generating short-term employment, helping the Afghani currency maintain its value, stabilizing the banking sector, and suppressing inflation. While humanitarian aid is not a long-term remedy, and cannot substitute for development investment, and while concerns remain over support for the Taliban regime and the misappropriation of aid funding, it remains vital to Afghanistan. “Why humanitarian aid is vital to Afghanistan”, The Interpreter, Lowy Institute, September 27, 2023.

UN FAO Report. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has published a two-page report (PDF) on its activities in Afghanistan. (ReliefWeb, 28 Sep 2023).

Copper and Artifacts. The Mes Aynak mine holds valuable copper deposits that promises to help revitalize Afghanistan’s economy and provide jobs to Afghans. However, it is also a very historical archeological site. Archeologists are in a race against time to save the valuable artifacts at the mining site. “Beneath the Sands of Mes Aynak“, by Barbara O’Brien, The Religious Nerd, September 28, 2023.

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Commentary, Analysis, and Opinion

U.S. Ambassador at U.N. The United States Mission to the United States, represented by Ambassador Robert Wood, delivered remarks at a recent UN Security Council meeting. He addressed the topics of the current situation of women and girls, access for humanitarian assistance, and ongoing human rights abuses. “Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on Afghanistan”, U.S. Mission to the United Nations, September 26, 2023.

‘Gender Apartheid’. The United Nations has made a lot of ‘noise’ about the dire situation of women and girls in Afghanistan under Taliban rule. However, thus far, the UN efforts has not resulted in any concrete improvements in the situation. Part of the problem is that the international community is divided on how to approach the Taliban. Read more in a commentary by Dr. Shanthie Mariet D’Souza entitled “Myths and Realities of ‘Gender Apartheid’ in Afghanistan under the Taliban”, The Diplomat, September 29, 2023.

Taliban and Uyghurs. Ayjaz Wani, a researcher with the Observer Research Foundation, examines the China – Afghanistan relationship in light of the Uyghur situation in northwestern China – an area that borders Afghanistan. “China’s dichotomous ties with the Taliban and Uyghurs”, ORF, September 26, 2023.

Women’s Rights Crisis. A United Nations women’s rights expert calls for intervention in Afghanistan to come to the aid of Afghans women. Sima Bahous noted the deterioration of women’s rights in Afghanistan and made three recommendations to the United Nations Security Council on this topic. (Jurist, 27 Sep 2023).

Resources for Afghans and Afghan Evac Volunteers

#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.

USCIS – Case Status. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has an online webpage where you can check the status of an immigration application, petition, or request. You start by entering your unique 13-character identifier (Receipt Number).

Updated – Information for Afghan Nationals. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has made some changes to its page that provides information to Afghans about Re-Parole, Asylum, Temporary Protected Status, Application Process, Lawful Permanent Resident Cards, Relocation, SIVs, and much more.

U.S. Immigration and Visas. A resource about Special Immigrant Visas, understanding the SIV process, USRAP P1 and P2 referrals, humanitarian parole, and more. Evacuate Our Allies.


Books about Afghanistan

Banner Books about Afghanistan

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


Photo: Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Rachael Scott interacts with an Afghan child during Operation Allies Welcome at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., Sept. 1, 2021. Photo by Tia Dufour, Marine Corps.