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Noncombatant Evacuation Operation - Afghanistan


Current Situation

U.S. Admits Fault in Drone Strike. The Pentagon acknowledged that a U.S. drone strike in Afghanistan on August 29th was a mistake. The Hellfire missile fired from a UAV killed ten Afghan civilians, 3 adults and 7 children. The missle targeted a car believed to be carrying explosives - it wasn't. A secondary explosion that took place during the attack was likely a nearby propane or gas tank. The Hellfire was launched in an effort to kill ISIS-K planners who were thought to be a threat to U.S. military forces at the nearby Hamid Karzai International Airport who were busy evacuating civilians. General McKenzie said that surveillance assets, including several MQ-9 Reapers, were focused on the suspected compound and vehicle. See "DOD: August 29 Strike in Kabul 'Tragic Mistake,' Kills 10 Civlilians", DoD News, September 17, 2021. See also a statement by the Secretary of Defense on the results of the Central Command investigation. (DoD News Release, Sep 17, 2021).

Qatar Airways Flight with AMCITS. An unknown number of Americans were on a flight that left Kabul airport for the Middle East nation of Qatar. This is likely the third chartered flight in over a week that carried American citizens out of Afghanistan along with other foreign nationals. The first flight took place on September 9th with a second on September 10. The has been little news about the planes at Mazar-e-Sharif that have been prevented from leaving with a variety of hopeful evacuees - some foreign nationals, some with Afghan passports and visas, and others just hoping that they can get on one of the flights.


COVID-19 Vaccine administered to Afghan evacuee.

Army Pfc. Riley Tiedt with the 2-127th Infantry Regiment, 32nd Infantry Division, Wisconsin National Guard, administers a COVID-19 vaccination to an Afghan evacuee during Operation Allies Welcome at Fort McCoy, Wi., Sept. 3, 2021. The Defense Department through Northern Command, and in support of the Department of Homeland Security, is providing transportation, temporary housing, medical screening, and general support for at least 50,000 Afghan evacuees at suitable facilities, in permanent or temporary structures, as quickly as possible. (Photo by Spc. Eric Cerami, U.S. Army)


Friday, September 17, 2021

DoS Flights from Kabul? The rumors on social media and in the main stream news continues to circulate on the resumption of Qatar Airways flights from the Kabul airport. The Department of State is typically very quiet on these flights - usually holding a press conference after the fact providing very little details. Some observers believe the flights will begin in the next few days. And some rumor mill sources say that a flight from Kabul to Qatar took place on Friday with some U.S. citizens on it.

Panjshir - The Resistance Continues. Residents fleeing from the last stronghold of the resistance to the Taliban say there is no clear winner yet. The National Resistance Front (NRF) and the Taliban have been battling for control of the valley with the Taliban owning the main road but the rebels having the advantage on the high ground and side valleys. Internet and phone service has been disrupted in the region so information about the fight is spotty and unreliable. "Afghans who fled Panjshir: 'Everything can chagne by the hour'", Aljazeera, September 17, 2021.

Working with the Devil. Jonathan Schoden and Alexander Powell outline the dilemmas of cooperating with the Taliban in order to counter the Islamic State in Afghanistan. The U.S. has designated ISIS-K a Foreign Terrorist Organization (2016) and is worried that it can develop the capability to strike the United States if it can establish a secure operating base in Afghanistan. The Taliban and the United States each share a desire to defeat ISIS-K and they may find themselves drawn together in a cooperative effort to achieve this goal. Read more in "Working with the Devil? The Potential for U.S. - Taliban Cooperation Against the Islamic State in Afghanistan", War on the Rocks, September 16, 2021.

Afghan Evac Chaos Results in Dutch Resignation. The Dutch government is suffering from some criticism on its handling of evacuations from Afghansitan during the Taliban takeover of Kabul. Government officials acknowledged that there was a slow or muddled reponse to warnings on the situation to local embassy staff and interpreters who worked for Dutch troops in Afghanistan. See "Dutch foreign minister quits over Afghanistan evacuation chaos", Alijazeera, September 17, 2021.

Hard Times for Afghan 'Diversity Visa Lottery Winners'. More than 2,000 diversity visa lottery winners in Afghanistan are finding it difficult to complete the requirements to get a visa in hand that will allow them to leave Afghanistan and enter the United States. The U.S. Embassy for Afghanistan is no longer in Kabul and it is difficult to find a U.S. embassy in a third country that will offer appointments for visa application interviews. Read more "U.S. visa lotter winners feel 'hopeless' in struggle to leave Afghanistan", Los Angeles Times, September 16, 2021.

Afghan Security Overview. A basic compilation on recent developments and key actors in Afghanistan is available from the European Country of Origin Information Network (ECOI). Topics include developments in 2021, the Taliban, National Resistance Front, IS-KP, al Qaeda, Haqqani Network, and other actors. Read Afghanistan: Overview of Security in Afghanistan, ECOI, September 16, 2021.

WH Projects Afghan Refugees by State. Governors are getting the word that Afghan refugees are coming their way in the next several weeks. The allocations are being made under the Afghan Placement and Assistance (APA) Program. While California and Texas will each get several thousand some states like Mississippi and Alabama are projected to receive just 10 each. Resettlement will begin once the Afghans receive medical screenings, immunizations, and other processing requirements. "White House has told governors how many Afghan refugees they can expect to be resettled", CNN Politics, Septemer 16, 2021.

Money Problems. The international community has a dilemma. How do they provide needed humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan without propping up the Taliban regime financially? The Afghan government is currently severed from the international banking system. This puts obstacles in the way of nongovernmental organizations that are trying to get emergency relief, medical supplies, and food to a population suffering from a drought, stagnant economy, and other problems. Read more in "With Foreign Funds Frozen, Afghan Aid Groups Stuck in Limbo", The Diplomat, September 16, 2021.

Abandoning Our Friends. Col. (Ret.) Christopher Vanek believes that the removal of American troops will result in a loss of confidence of future partners in the international community. He says that a continued presence in the form of advising and assisting the Afghan national security forces indefinately could have guaranteed the future safety of the United States from terrorist attack. Instead we are abandoning our friends and leaving our nation open to terrorist threats that could emanate from Afghanistan. "A veteran's view of Afghanistan: Abandoning our friends, paying with American lives", Austin American-Statesman, September 1, 2021.



Thursday, September 16, 2012

Ramstein Air Base Tent City

Tent City of Afghan Evacuees at Ramstein Air Base, Germany

Department of State - Overwhelmed? The DoS has mismanaged the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program over the past decade or more. It did a terrible job during the noncombatant evacuation operation (NEO) at Kabul airport. It is now deluged with immigrant cases requiring quick action - and currently, because it is not that large of an organization, it is overwhelmed. And even if State had the capacity it isn't clear that the top management tier has the ability to lead effectively. The DoS is reduced to diplomatic measures to try and get the remaining AMCITs, LPRs, and SIV holders out of Afghanistan. That will be a months-long and difficult process.

And If You Can't Wait for DoS? Those at-risk Afghans who are being hunted by the Taliban have a difficult decision to make. Stay 'sheltered' in a safe place until the DoS can give you the 'status' you need to fly out via Kabul or flee to a neighboring country. If you shelter in place the Taliban may find you. Going to a bordering nation has its risks. If you don't have the legal documents to cross the border you risk the attention of the Taliban at the border crossing and the neighboring country border guards (agents) will likely turn you back. If you cross the border through other means (smuggler routes, private sector assistance, etc.) you may be safe for a while. But you risk having the internal security forces of the neighboring country returning you to Afghanistan if you have no legal status. Perhaps seeking the safety of a refugee camp in a neighboring country is a future option - but currently they are not set up.

Project Afghan Relief Fund (PARF.US). There are a lot of private sector organizations recently established to assist with the evacuation of AMCITs, LPRs, and at-risk Afghans from Afghanistan. One of the more active ones is Project Afghan Relief Fund - a combined effort by two Tampa-based firms with a special operations background. Quiet Professionals and Echo Analytics Group are the driving force behind the Project Afghan Relief Fund. PARF serves to connect friends and allies in Afghanistan with the resources they need to evacuate the country and rebuild their lives after they have escaped. Learn more at Project Afghan Relief Fund.

Posted on Twitter:

Occupied Afghanistan

Senator Graham - the New Charlie Wilson. The GOP senator has been working behind the scenes to build support in Washington foreign policy circles for Amrullah Saleh, the Afghan opposition leader spearheading the anti-Taliban resistance based in the northeastern province of Panjshir. "Lindsey Graham, one-man PR shop for the Afghan resistance", Politico, September 15, 2021. See also, "Struggle for Control of Afghanistan Comes to K Street", The New York Times, September 15, 2021.

A Hasty Departure. A month after the Taliban takeover the debris left behind at HKIA shows signs of a quick withdrawal. "A month of Taliban rule: Signs of US occupation at Kabul airport", Aljazeera, September 16, 2021.

Hellfire Missile Attack - a "Righteous Strike?" General Milley said that the drone attack that killed three adults and seven children in Afghanistan was conducted to prevent an ISIS-K attack against U.S. forces during the Kabul airlift. However, news reports say the man killed was a worker for a humanitarian aid organization based in California and he was attempting to leave the country under a U.S. visa program. The man targeted by the U.S. drone worked for 15 years for Nutrition & Education International - a California-based non-profit aimed at countering malnutrition in Afghanistan. One of the Afghan men killed had worked with U.S. Special Forces and had also requested a visa. "Afghan killed by drone praised by co-workers in US aid group", AP News, September 16, 2021.

Resettlement for Afghans - A Slow Process. Many Afghans who left their country in August are still waiting for medical and security screenings at overseas locations. Their wait will be even longer now that the measles outbreak has put a halt on flights from Germany and other locations to the United States. Those who are still overseas are being inoculated against measles and other illnesses. In addition, they are receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. Almost 50,000 are located on miltary bases in the United States and 18,000 more are located on military bases across Europe and the Middle East. "Thousands of Afghans on American Military Bases Await Resettlement", The New York Times, September 16, 2021. (subscription).

Khalilzad on Afghanistan. The US Special Representative to Afghanistan said that the people of Afghanistan themselves cause the ongoing situation and accused former president Ashraf Ghani of failing to implement a peaceful transition of power. He isn't wrong but he didn't exactly cover himself with glory. The Guardian, September 16, 2021.

Private Evac Groups Meet in D.C. Members of various private organizations like Save Our Allies met with representatives from the Pentagon, Department of State, Department of Homeland Security, and other government organizations to exchange information on efforts to evacuate AMCITs, LPRs, and at-risk Afghans. It is hard to not come to the conclusion that the meeting is about one month too late. Time will tell if this is just a meeting by the government officials to 'show' it is cooperating with the private sector organizations or if they really mean to accomplish something with the many non-official groups that have and continue to assist those at risk to depart Afghanistan.

UN - Suffering Will Continue. The United Nations refugee chief says that if additional support is not provided to Afghanistan then there will be more suffering, instability, and displacement. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, visited Afghanistan for three-days for a look at the situation. "Afghanistan: UN refugee chief warns of greater suffering", Deutche Well, September 16, 2021.

A Floundering Medical System. A lack of money to pay medical staff and provide medical supplies is leading to a severe degradation of medical services. "Afghanistan: 'Waiting for death' - Doctors work without pay and medicines dwindle, a month into Taliban rule", Sky News, September 16, 2021.

Afghan Journalists Facing Danger. A very vibrant and free press developed in Afghanistan over the past two decades. With the Taliban takeover these media professionals face immediate danger and even death. They need help. Read more in "Afghan journalists have to get out of the country", Deutche Welle, September 15, 2021.

Trouble in the Family? Kathy Gannon, a long-time correspondent who covered Afghanistan, reports of the internal strife within the new regime. She says there is a beef between the pragmatists and ideologues in the Taliban leadership that has grown since the group formed a hard-line government last week. "Friction among Taliban pragmatists, hard-liners intensifies", AP News, September 16, 2021.

A New Way of Life. The people of Afghanistan are learning to adapt to the new rulers. Some see an improvement with the removal of a corrupt government that failed to provide services to the people in the rural areas and had a poor record of governance at the district level. Others are fearful of the Taliban and regret the loss of freedoms enjoyed over the past 20 years. "Afghanistan: Life under Taliban rule one month on", BBC News, September 15, 2021.

Afghans Refugees Enjoying the Adriatic Coast. Albania, which has committed to taking in up to 4,000 refugees from Afghansitan, is housing several hundred in resorts on the Adriatic coast. "From Taliban Terror to Beach Resort: A Strange Journey for Some Refugees", The New York Times, September 13, 2021.

Women's Soccer Team. More than 79 members of the Afghan women's soccer team and their families escaped Afghanistan. They had valid Afghan passports and Pakistan visas. "Members of Afghan women's soccer team cross into Pakistan", MSN.com, September 15, 2021.

Afghan Resistance. One Twitter account says that there is some fighting taking place between Taliban militants and Afghan resistance fighters in Badakhshan province. Unconfirmed in other news media sources. Badakhshan province is located in northeastern Afghanistan south of the Tajikistan border.

Afghan Diplomats Adrift. Hundreds of former diplomats for Afghanistan are stuck abroad - many now without jobs or means to support themselves. They also are fearfull for their families in Afghanistan. Although the Taliban regime has told the diplomatic missions to continue to work their jobs there is no operating budget for the embassy staffs. Many Afghan embassy personnel are hoping for asylum in the countries they are in. "Afghanistan envoys marooned abroad after Taliban's sudden return", Aljazeera, September 16, 2021.

Afghan Scholars Program. Arizona State University has established a new program that is open to Afghans who have legal residence in the U.S. or are in the process of obtaining a U.S. visa. ASU is welcoming scholars, journalists, and researchers who have recently left Afghanistan to request an academic appointment to the unversity. Arizona State University.



Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Danish 'Spotter' during HKIA Evacuation.

A Danish coalition service member holds up a Danish flag to identify families during
an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 21.
U.S. service members and coalition forces are assisting the Department of State
with a non-combatant evacuation operation (NEO) in Afghanistan.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Victor Mancilla)

Task Force Bastard and HKIA-N Evac. Charlie Anderson, a Captain who deployed with his unit to Kabul during the evacuation, provides a comprehensive account of his unit's participation in the Kabul noncombatant evacuation operation. This is a must read! Posted by Task & Purpose, September 15, 2021.

SOF and Afghanistan - A Little History and Analysis. Cole Livieratos, an Army strategist and veteran of the war in Afghanistan, provides his perspective on the involvement of U.S. special operations forces in the long war with the Taliban in Afghanistan. As a Special Forces officer he had some close-in observations of the two decades long effort. "The Subprime Strategy Crisis: Failed Strategic Assessment in Afghanistan", War on the Rocks, September 15, 2021.

Al Qaeda Fighters Returning to Afghanistan. U.S. intelligence agencies are seeing early signs that al Qaeda militants are finding their way to Afghanistan. (The Wall Street Journal, Sep 15, 2021). (subscription)

Al Qaeda Rebuilding. Top intelligence officials have said the the terrorist group is on favorable terms with the Taliban and they could rebuild their capability of hitting western targets from an Afghanistan sanctuary.  "Al Qaeda could rebuild in Afghanistan in a year or two, U.S. officials say", The New York Times, September 14, 2021.

The HKIA Evac and SOF. As time goes on more and more stories are being published about the evacuation of AMCITs, LPRs, and others from the Kabul airport. Many of these stories are about the efforts of current and retired members of the world's special operations community. Read more in "The final scramble out of Kabul required skills only commandos have, special-ops veterans say", Business Insider, September 14, 2021.

Torkham Border Crossing. Pakistan opened up the Torkham border crossing to Pedestrian traffic on Tuesday to pedestrian traffic. Citizens of both countries can return to their respective nations through the border post. Trade activities are functioning "smoothly". (Times of India, Sep 15, 2021).

Welcome.US. A broad coalition of advocacy groups for refugees from Afghanistan has garnered the support of three former U.S. presidents - (Bush, Clinton, and Obama). Welcome.US has the support of major corporations to include Microsoft, Starbucks, and Walmart as well as numerous nonprofit organizations, veterans groups, and resettlement agencies. "U.S. Ex-presidents Bush, Clinton, Obama band together to aid Afghan refugees", Reuters, September 14, 2021.

The Taliban's Army. The Taliban are currently working to form a disciplined army. (KabulNow, Sep 15, 2021).

Turkey and Afghan Refugees. The Turkish president has told European leaders that it does not have the capacity to deal with a new refugee wave from Afghanistan. Turkey currently hosts the world's largest refugee population - including millions of Syrians. In 2016, Turkey and the EU signed a deal for Ankara to stem the flow of migrants heading toward Europe in return for visa-free travel for Turkish citizens and substantial EU financial support. "Turkey says it lacks the capacity to handel new refugee influx", The Washington Post, September 14, 2021. (subscription)

Afghan Rescue Group (ARG) - Saving Afghans At-Risk. A private group is engaged in an attempt to get Americans, legal permanent residents (of the U.S.), and others out of Afghanistan. ARG has rescued hundreds of these people and continues to assist even more. But there is increasing frustration with the Department of State. A co-founder of ARG says that the Biden administration ". . . didn't calculate the power of the relationships that we've . . . that all of us, civilians, veterans, formed with that country. It's almost like they're amputating a part of our body off." (National Review, Sep 14, 2021)

Discontent Within the Ranks. Apparently there is a little disagreement among the various factions of the Taliban. One dispute is about who did the most to secure the insurgent victory in Afghanistan. There is also friction on how the ministry posts should be divided. (Business Insider, Sep 15, 2021).

Biden Admin - Obstructionists? The private sector groups providing assistance to AMCITs, LPRs, SIV holdres, Terps, and other at-risk Afghans have become extremely frustrated with the Department of State. Read more in "As the Administration Obstructs, Americans Keep Trying to Save People Left Behind in Afghanistan", American Defense News, September 15, 2021.

OCHA Humanitarian Update on Afghanistan. Returnees are in need of food and shelter, there are limited health services in the northeast, Sar-e-Pul province has received food aid, and people from Panjsher have been displaced to Kabu. Read more in the Afghanistan Weekly Humanitarian Update, Sep 12, 2021.

Escaping Afghanistan - But Some Still Suffer. Afghan migrants who find themselves in foreign countries are experiencing a variety of living conditions and social settings. Some Afghans -  depending on where they end up - experience joblessness, lack of social services, and other obstacles to a normal life. Greece is a particularly hard place to end up. "Well before the evacuation, a generation of Afghans escaped to Europe. Their experience has been dire", The Washington Post, September 14, 2021.

Pakistan - Russia Talks. Putin and Imran Khan have spoke by telephone to "coordinate" their positions on the situation in Afghanistan in preparation for the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) later this week. They are interested in seeing Afghanistan 'stabilized'. Nice of them to come on board at this late juncture. "Pakistan, Russia to 'coordinate' positions on Afghanistan", Aljazeera, September 15, 2021.



Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Gabrielle Ivey High Fives Afghan Child

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Gabrielle Ivey, 24th intelligence Squadron analyst,
gives high fives to a small boy during Operation Allies Refuge at Ramstein Air
Base, Germany, September 13, 2021. OAR is faciliating the evacuation from
Afghanistan for all evacuees and their care as they await travel to onward locations.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Alexcia Givens)

Grounded Planes at MeS? There still are more than a thousand (perhaps 2,000) people stranded at Mazar-e-Sharif airport in northern Afghanistan waiting to board six planes that have been chartered by private organizations. The people are a mix of AMCITs, LPRs, and at-risk Afghans. Blame has been cast at the Department of State for hindering the flights from taking off - or at least for not helping the situation. And, of course, the Taliban for not allowing the aircraft to take off because some of the passengers lack the appropriate documentation. The main sticking point is probably that the Taliban have a hefty price tag attached to letting the aircraft fly out. Hopefully we will soon movement soon on this front.

OAW Flights Suspended - Measles. Operation Allies Welcome flights of Afghans from overseas transit locations are on hold for seven days (resume Sep 20th) at the request of the CDC after discovering a measles outbreak among the Afghan refugee who recently arrived in the U.S. One case was at Fort McCoy, one at Fort Pickett, and three cases among those who flew into Dulles Airport. All arriving Afghans are currently required to be vaccinated for measles as a condition of their humanitarian parole. The MMR and other critical immunizations are being administered at safe havens and military bases in the U.S. The MMR may soon be done overseas at the temporary transit sites.

Tajikistan Takes 100 Refugees. Over 200 Afghans attempted to cross into Tajikistan but only 100 were accepted by that nation. (Gandhara Blog, Sep 13, 2012)https://www.rferl.org/a/afghanistan-refugees-tajikistan-taliban/31457626.html

Afghan Pilots Leave Uzbekistan for U.S. Military Bases. Over the past two days pilots of the now-dissolved Afghan Air Force and their families have been flown to U.S. military bases - most likely in the United Arab Emirates. "Uzbekistan Completes Deportation of Hundreds of Afghan Pilots and Family", Radio Free Europe, September 13, 2021.

Gurka Rifles to Kosovo. Troops from the Royal Gurka Rifles have deployed to Kosovo to on a 60-day operation to help relocate and resettle Afghan former employees of NATO. The 140 troops, with additional personnel from across the Armed Forces, will be providing force protection and assistance in processing about 2,000 former NATO contractors and their families. The UK's Operation Allied Solace is supporting the relocation of vulnerable Afghans via third countries. The Afghans are being housed in temporary accommodation in Kosovo while they undergo vetting, onward processing, and resettlement across NATO countries, including the UK. (Forces.net, Sep 13, 2021).

Escape Via CIA's Eagle Base, Uzbekistan, Hungary, and Finally Colorado. Read the ordeal of one woman's long journey home in the final days of the Kabul airlift in "Afghan American woman's escape highlights secretive CIA role in Kabul rescues", The Washington Post, September 13, 2021.

Torkham Gate Closed. Although vehicular traffic can pass those traveling on foot cannot. "Taliban close Torkham crossing for pedestrian movement", Pajhwok Afghan News, September 14, 2021.

United Nations Flights. The UN Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) has been making (or plans to make) flights five days per week, Sunday to Thursday, traveling from Islamabad into Afghanistan. The planes will fly to Kabul, then on to the cities of Kandahar, Mazar-i-Sharif, and Herat, returning to Islamabad via Kabul. (UN News, Sep 13, 2021). The UN announced on Monday that it obtained over $1 billion in pledges for humanitarian assistance from donor nations.

Future US Covert Actions in Afghanistan? Thomas Waldman and Cory Cormac wonder if the US will do a "Charlie Wilson's War" sequel. The movie depicted the (real life) activities of a U.S. Congressman drumming up support for the CIA support of the Mujahadeen's fight against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. But the US should be careful about opening up the 1980s covert action playbook again. Read more in "Forward to the Past? Weigh Covert Options in Afghanistan Carefully", War on the Rocks, September 14, 2021.

Controversial Drone Attack. The Pentagon continued to assert that the aerial attack against an ISIS target was justified. Independent reporting from The New York Times and other news media outlets say that the UAV attack was a mistake - killing Afghan civilians, among them seven children. An investigation by reporters - checking out video analysis and interviews at the attack site casts doubt on the U.S. military's account. See "Pentagon Defends Deadly Drone Strike in Kabul", The New York Times, September 13, 2021. The Pentagon has no plans to send an investigator team to scrutinize the drone strike. The California NGO that the driver of the vehicle struck says he had no connection with ISIS-K.

Afghans at Fort Bliss. Afghans have been airlifted to several military installations around the country. One of these is Fort Bliss, Texas. The Afghans are spending weeks while they undergo medical and security checks. They are staying in air-conditioned tents and eating Afghan-styled food. Over 50,000 Afghans are likely to pass through these camps on their way to a new life in the United States. Some are former interpreters, members of Afghan SOF, and others who worked for the U.S. military or other U.S. government organizations. Others are just Afghans who were lucky enough to get onto the Kabul airfield and onto a plane before adequate security and screening measures were put into place during the Kabul NEO. "US gives 1st public look inside base housing Afghans", AP News, September 10, 2021.

Taliban Take Panjshir Valley. Hollie McKay, a foreign correspondent in Afghanistan, reports that the Taliban are controlling all the main roads in all eight districts of the Panjshir Valley. The remnants of the National Resistance Front are still fighting from the more distant mountains of the region. "With an Arsenal of US-Made Weapons, the Taliban Storm Through Panjshir", Coffee or Die Magazine, September 13, 2021.

NEO, the UASF, and Al Udeid Air Base. An airman sent to Qatar to assist with the noncombatant evacuation operation of Afghans describes her work routine. (DVIDS, Sep 13, 2021).

Revenge Killings. House to house searches are taking place by the Taliban seeking high level government and security forces personnel. They are taken away and their bodies show up later at other locations. See "Taliban Reportedly Engaging in Revenge Kills of Afghan Security Forces, U.N. Official Says", Newsweek, September 13, 2021.

Afghan SOF Assisted in Evacuation - Looking for Resettlement. A elite group of Afghan special operations personnel assisted the Americans in providing security at HKIA during the Kabul airlift and in evacuating AMCITs and LPRs. Read more in "CIA-trained Afghan forces who helped Americans and others evacuate now await resettlement in the U.S.", The Washington Post, September 10, 2021.

And More News About Afghanistan

Qatar, Turkey, and the Taliban - Best Friends? It didn't take long for the new Taliban regime to line up support in the international arena. Qatar and Turkey have been becoming closer allies over the past decade and now they share a common goal of assisting the new government in Afghanistan. The two nations have also stepped out on their own in the past few years - Qatar slipping away from the influence of other Middle East nations and Turkey spurning NATO and getting chummy with Russia. Amin Saikal provides more on this topic in "The Qatari-Turkish joint venture in Afghanistan", The Strategist, Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), September 13, 2021.

US Aid for Humanitarian Assistance. The US announced that $64 million in aid is being funded by the U.S. Agency of International Development (USAID) for Afghanistan. The money will flow through the United Nations and other nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). USAD has activated a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) that will lead the U.S. Government's humanitarian response - it will operate outside of Afghanistan. (USAID, Sep 13, 2021). See also a press statement by the U.S. Department of State on humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan. (DoS, Sep 13, 2021).

The Taliban - al Qaeda Relationship. Many have speculated on the exact nature of the al Qaeda presence in Afghanistan. Ashley Jackson and Rahmatullah Amiri inform us about this topic in "Taliban narratives on Al Qaeda in Afghanistan", ODI, September 13, 2021.

Women in the New Afghanistan. Joel Blaxland examines the future that the women of Afghanistan face and provides context to a decision the U.S. will need to make in "The Reality Facing Women in Taliban-Ruled Afghanistan - and the Dilemma for US Policy", Modern War Institute at West Point, September 13, 2021.

Ministry of Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. This dreaded ministry has made its return under the new Taliban regime. It is notorious for enforcing the Taliban's harsh version of Sharia law including a ban on women venturing outside their house without a male companion and a prohibition on music and other forms of entertainment. During the Taliban's earlier rule from 1996 to 2001 moral police patrolled the streets of Afghanistan and frequently flogged, stoned, amputated, and publically executed Afghan civilians depending on the crime. "Taliban to cut hands of thieves, reveals punishment for 'illegal intercourse'", Hindustan Times, September 14, 2021. The White House and Department of State have repeatedly stated that they will work with the Taliban to ensure women's rights are protected. Thus far, neither the WH or DoS has provided specifics on how they will accomplish this.

Podcast - Lessons From the Hardest Place: Twenty Years of War in Afghanistan. Wesley Morgan, correspondent and book author, and retired Colonel Bill Ostlund examine 20 years of the U.S. in Afghanistan through the lens of the conflict in the Pech Valley in eastern Afghanistan. Irregular Warfare Podcast, Modern War Institute at West Point, September 13, 2021, 52 minutes.

Female Students. The Taliban have announced that women will be allowed to study but not alongside men. A review of subjects to be taught will take place along with a new dress code for female students. See "Afghanistan: Taliban announce new rules for female students", BBC News, September 13, 2021.

Afghan Media Outlets Closing. Since the fall of the former government in mid-August media outlets have stopped activity in 20 provinces. Financial obstacles and government restrictions are hurting freedom of the press in Afghanistan. "152 Afghan Media Outlets Cease Operating in Less Than 1 Month", Tolo News, September 13, 2021.

Central Asian States - and Afghanistan. The countries of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan have adopted different perspectives on the new Taliban regime. Uzbekistan seems more 'tolerant' and more agreeable to work with the new government. It has been providing food and medical aid to the Mazar-i-Sharif area in Balkh province. Tajikistan is taking a more hardline approach to the Taliban regime. 


Map Jaihun District Tajikistan
One border crossing on the Tajik - Afghan border is at Shir Khan Bandar where
a bridge spans the Amu Darya River. This is located directly north of Kunduz.


Monday, September 13, 2021

Refugee Camps. Afghans fleeing the Taliban regime are now massing at the border crossing points and are crossing the border at places not manned by the border guards of the respective countries. They will soon form up at locations along the border in make-shift refugee camps and wait for NGOs to mobilize to provide humanitarian aid.

Refugees and Tajikistan. One such border camp is reported (Twitter) to have formed up in the southern district of Jaihun, Tajikistan. As of Sep 10th there were about 200 Afghan refugees there. In July Tajikistan said it was ready to shelter up to 100,000 refugees from Afghanistan. The officials indicated that Tajikistan would set up a temporary camp for refugees in the Jaihun district. A lack of committment and coordination by other nations and nongovernmental organizations prompted the Tajik government to deeply scale back its committment to Afghan refugees. Over 600 Afghan servicemen had fled Afghanistan in June 2021 and have since been repatriated to Afghanistan on flights to Kabul during early July. With the apparent collapse of the ANDSF in northern Afghanistan the Tajiks reinforced their border with an additional 20,000 troops in early July.

Secretary Blinken Testimony. The head of the Department of State testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Monday, September 13, on the withdrawal of the United States from Afghanistan and the disaster that unfolded at Kabul airport. It quickly descended into a political slugfest with Republicans attacking the Biden administration and Democrats defending it. Amidst the partisan fighting Secretary Blinken once again revealed that he has no grasp of the real situation on the ground - and if you are someone that does know how bad things are for AMCITs, LPRs, and at-risk Afghans then you could easily conclude he was outright lying. A disappointing session to watch - but if your are a glutton for punishment you can view the video on YouTube:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2MEJjKUk0Q&t=690s

Blinken's Opening Remarks. You can read the transcript or watch the video of the Department of State lead guy testifying before the house. (DoS, Sep 13, 2021). Blinken vows that the Afghanistan evac mission will continue - but lawmakers are skeptical. (Military Times, Sep 13, 2021).

AMCITs. By a rough estimate, the Department of State would say 100 but they are wrong (again), there are more than 250 American citizens still left stranded in Afghanistan that wish to leave. They are departing at the rate of 20-30 a day on a Qatar Airways chartered flight from Kabul to Doha. The plane carries foreign nationals from a number of other countries. Some Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs with a Green Card) are getting out as well but the priority seems to be AMCITs. The Afghans with a Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) that is approved or pending is not being considered for these current evacuation flights with Qatar Airways. Secretary Blinken once again stuck to the 'about 100 Americans' in Afghanistan. And once again he is wrong.

26th MEU and OAW. U.S. Marines and sailors with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit deployed this past weekend from Camp Lejeune, NC to Fort Pickett, VA in support of Operation Allies Welcome. The 120 service members will join other DoD units in providing facilities, housing, sustainment and other types of support to the Afghan evacuees. "26th MEU Supports Operations Allies Welcome", DVIDS, September 13, 2021.

Humanitarian Crisis Looming. Amid a severe drought, the World Food Program estimates that Afghanistan lost about 40 percent of its crop this growing season. The price of wheat has gone up 25 percent. Hundreds of thousands of Afghans are homeless. The medical system is about to collapse. International funding has been halted. "A Million Afghan Children Could Die in 'Most Perilous Hour,' U.N. Warns", The New York Times, September 13, 2021.

Flights Delayed. Measles cases were detected at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin among recently arrived Afghan evacuees. The White House said that flights carrying Afghan refugees to the United States will be paused for several days at the request of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to the CDC, Afghanistan has the seventh-highest number of measles cases in the world. (Fox News, Sep 13, 2021). See also "Measles concerns may delay Afghan resettlement by weeks", Politico, September 13, 2021.


Department of State Kabul airlift


Sunday, September 12, 2021

Germans Fly Out. On Saturday, September 11, 2021, German citizens and their families flew out on the second chartered plane of Qatar Airlines from the Afghan capital.  Although KIA is not fully operational for international flights, chartered flights of Qatar Airlines have flown out foreign nationals in the past four days. "45 German families flown out of Kabul Airport", Khaama Press, September 12, 2021.

AMCITs in Afghanistan Say "When will I get called?". There are a number of private sector organizations that have been in contact with American citizens who are stranded in Afghanistan. These U.S.-based organizations are, in most cases, supplying their lists to the Department of State. However, it is not entirely clear that the DoS is properly collating these inputs from the private sector organizations to ensure that all of the AMCITs are on 'the master list'. As the evacuation at the Kabul airport in late August took place the DoS was contacting AMCITs in Kabul to rally at a specific location for transport to the airport. Some AMCITS were never called. Now that chartered flights to Qatar are taking place DoS is once again contacting some AMCITs to arrange pickup for transport to the airport. AMCITs are contacting the various private sector organizations asking when they will get called - they have great concern that they are not on 'the master list' and will miss their opportunity for a flight out.

MeS Airport and Grounded Planes Update? Rumors are swirling that the Taliban will finally let one or two of the planes grounded at Mazar-e-Sharif to depart with a mix of AMCITs, foreign nationals, and other at-risk Afghans.

Afghan Airports - Operational? A Twitter post stated that Medecins Sans Frontieres flew medical supplies (medicine, covid tests, etc.) and doctors into northern Afghanistan in the past few days using the airport in Kunduz. Some reports say the World Health Organization (WHO) flew in supplies to MeS. A social media account says that a flight loaded with humanitarian aid supplies from Pakistan landed at the Khost airport on Sunday. There are news reports that the Afghan police have returned to work alongside the Taliban at Kabul airport. (France24, Sep 12, 2021).

Afghan Pilots to be Transferred to US Base. When the country of Afghanistan fell to the Taliban many of the Air Force pilots flew their planes and helicopters to Uzbekistan - many of them in mid-August. The Taliban have been pressuring Uzbekistan to hand the pilots and aircraft back to Afghanistan. However, it seems the U.S. and Uzbekistan have reached an agreement to transfer a group of Afghan Air Force pilots and their relatives to a U.S. military base in the next day or so. What happens to the 46 aircraft (22 planes and 24 helicopter) is still up in the air. See "Afghan Pilots Who Sought Safety in Uzbekistan Poised for U.S. Transfer Under New Agreement", The Wall Street Journal, September 11, 2021.

US's Last Combat Action in Afghanistan. The last offensive action by the US military in Afghanistan will be remembered for the killing of an aid worker with a US NGO and seven Afghan children in an airstrike - ten civilians total.

CIA in Afghanistan (a short history). Shortly after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the Central Intelligence Agency went into action. Using its contacts with the Northern Alliance - the resistance group opposing the Taliban regime - it quickly sent in small teams of paramilitary operators (with bags of cash) to help organize and unify the resistance to the Taliban. Special Forces teams quickly followed and it wasn't long before the Taliban regime fell. The CIA continued its counter-terrorist activities for two more decades in Afghanistan (and elsewhere) - expanding its paramilitary activities. Amy Zegart argues that it is time for the spy agency to get back to its core mission - collecting and analyzing intelligence as well as carrying out covert operations when it is important to hide official U.S. involvement. "The CIA Spent 20 Years on the Front Lines of the War on Terror. It's Time for That to Change", Politico, September 11, 2021.

UNAMA Relocation to Kazakhstan. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan has relocated much of its personnel and operations to Almaty, Kazakhstan. See "UN Mission to Afghanistan Relocates to Kazakhsan", The Diplomat, September 11, 2021.

Women and Resistance. The major cities of Afghanistan have been witness to women in the streets protesting against the Taliban. They defying Taliban threats and violence to demand their rights, representation in government, and roles in Afghan society. "Afghan Women at Forefront of Nonviolent Resistance to Taliban", Gandara, September 12, 2021.

Coverage of Kabul versus the Rural Areas. The limited number of foreign correspondents in Afghanistan's capital city are remarking on the 'restraint' of the Taliban in pursuing their former adversaries in government and the security forces. However, away from the glare of foreign microphones and cameras is another story. That of the Taliban hunting down and killing former senior members of the Afghan government and security forces.

The New Afghan Government. The Taliban announced their new interim administration this past week. It is all-male, almost all-Pastun, all clerical and all-Taleban. The new government's priorities include internal cohesion, monopolization of power, silencing of dissent, and dividing the political and monetary spoils. Martine van Bijlert examines the composition of the Taliban government and provides an outlook for the future. "The Focus of the Taleban's New Government: Internal cohesion and external dominance", Afghanistan Analysts Network, September 12, 2021. The Haqqani network positioned itself for success and influence in the years prior to the Taliban takeover of the Kabul. See "Haqqani network's clever game culminates with Afghan government roles", Financial Times, September 10, 2021.

Humanitarian Parole. Afghanistan is in the midst of a refugee crisis. More than 550,000 Afghans have been displaced since January 2021. Some are especially at-risk - including women's rights activist, human rights workers, journalists, and tens of thousands of individuals who assisted U.S. efforts over the past 20 years. When the crisis of August culminated it was thought that at-risk Afghans could come to the U.S. under either the Special Immigrant Visa program or a broader Priority 2 (P2) refugee status. However, both processes takes years to complete. On August 23rd the administration announced it would be using its humanitarian parole authority to process in evacuated Afghans who do not already have visas. Read more in "Explainer: Humanitarian Parole and the Afghan Evacuation", National Immigration Forum, August 30, 2021.

Failing Economy. There is a shortage of cash in Afghanistan. For years the Afghan government survived on the international community to fund its security forces and government. That aid has now been suspended. Private organizations and individuals are having to be creative to send funds to Afghanistan. Currently all money transactions in the country will be in Afghanis (AFN) according to government officials (TB). MoneyGram has also confirmed it was paying out in afghanis. Read more in "Money transference should only be carried out in local currency: Afghan central bank", Khaama Press, September 12, 2021.



Saturday, September 11, 2021

2nd Qatar Airways Airliner in Kabul. On Friday another jet from Qatar arrived in Kabul with humanitarian aid cargo for Afghanistan. On its return flight to Qatar it carried American citizens and other foreign nationals from Kabul to Qatar. See "A second Qatar Airways passenger flight has arrived in Kabul", CNN News, September 10, 2021.

DoS Briefing on Afghanistan and AMCITs. The Department of State provided some additional information about the 2nd Qatar Airways flight from Kabul to Qatar. This one flew on Friday with 19 U.S. citizens aboard. In addition, two U.S. citizens and 11 lawful permanent residents departed Afghanistan an overland route. The DoS provided guidance to them, worked to facilitate their safe passage, and embassy officials greeted them once they had crossed the border. The State Department believes that there are still 100 Americans still left in Afghanistan (as of Friday, 10 Sep). (DoS Press Briefing, 10 Sep 2021).

'Canadian Dave' at HKIA-N. An ex-special forces officer was at Kabul airport for days before the Canadian military arrived. David Lavery was a founding member of JTF2 and operated a private security company, Raven Rae Consultancy, in Kabul. He operated in the vicinity of the Baron Hotel and worked with British troops who controlled the nearby gate to the airport. Read "How a guy known as 'Canadian Dave' helped get 100 people out of Afghanistan in final days of Taliban takeover", CBC News, September 9, 2021.

'Sandhurst Sisterhood' Saving Afghan Friends. U.K. veterans work hard to bring Afghan associates out of Afghanistan. "Afghanistan: The Sandhurst sisterhood trying to save Afghans", BBC News, August 25, 2021.

Podcast - No One Left Behind. Two board members of NOLB and former acting SECDEF Chris Miller take part in a discussion about the Global War on Terror and the AMCITs, LPRs, and at-risk Afghans left behind in Afghanistan. The Jedburgh Podcast, September 9, 2021.

Why The Evacuation at HKIA-N Was Such a Mess. Mick Mulroy, a former Deputy Assistance Secretary of Defense for the Middle East (and former Marine and CIA paramilitary officer), explains why the airlift at Kabul airport was so chaotic. Afghanistan's fall and a bottleneck at the Kabul airport were results of a combination of complementary factors.

  • the peace deal's effects on the Afghan government and military
  • U.S. trained Afghan army's reliance on air support
  • Taliban's highly effective military and diplomatic strategies
  • U.S. failure to hold a crucial air base
  • U.S. failure to keep the Taliban out of Kabul until airlift complete

Read more in "How Kabul Became an Evacuation Bottleneck and a Prime Terror Target: The Last 96", Lobo Institute, September 10, 2021.

Task Force Foxfire. A group of veterans and former intelligence officers started a non-government nonprofit and is playing a role in helping a handful of evacuees get out of Afghanistan safely. The team tracks the status of each individual trying to leave the country - determining their disposition as a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or Special Immigrant Visa status. The organizations then gets the necessary information to the proper authorities through their congressional channels or direct points of contact with the state department.The group uses encrypted communications and security protocols to make sure an individual's personal information is not compromised during communications with official channels. "Group of BCS veterans, former intel officers helping evacuate families out of Afghanistan", KBTX.com, August 25, 2021.

Contractors - Unsung Heroes. Support, operational, and battlefield contractors supported U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan for over 20 years. More contractors have died (8,000) than US service members (7,000) in post 9/11 operations. "In Afghanistan, Contractors Were Unsung Heroes of US Efforts", Breaking Defense, August 30, 2021.

Task Force Pineapple - an Underground Railroad. A Syracuse Social Studies teacher and former Green Beret explains his work in Afghanistan helping Afghans in a video. "Syracuse Teacher Takes Leave of Absence to Continue Daring Afghanistan Rescues", CYNCentral, September 8, 2021.

Measles Outbreak Disrupting Flights to States. There is a temporary halt of Afghan refugees flying from Europe and the Middle East transit locations to the United States after four cases of measles were found among recent arrivals. In addition to measles are some cases of TB and COVID. "Measles cases halt US-bound flights of Afghan refugees", CCN, September 10, 2021.

DoD IG Evaluation of Biometric Tracking of Afghans. The Inspector General of the Department of Defense will begin an evaluation to determine the extent to which the DoD is managing and tracking displaced persons from Afghanistan through the biometrics enrollment, screening, and vetting process. The locations to be evaluated include Fort Pickett, Quantico, and the Dulles Expo Center in Virginia. (PDF, Sep 9, 2021).


Pharmacy for Afghan evacuees at Ramstein Airbase

U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the 86th Medical Support Squadron work in
the Expeditionary Medical support system pharmacy set up for evacuees
during Operation Allies Refuge at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Sept. 9, 2021.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Alexcia Givens)


Friday, September 10, 2021

Afghan SOF in Hiding. A former translator for the British military is trying to help UK-trained SOF personnel to escape from Afghanistan and the Taliban. "At least 400 UK-trained Afghan special forces troops hiding from Taliban and want UK evacuation", Sky News, Sep 8, 2021.

Interpreter - In Fear for His Life. An interpreter who worked with U.S. military forces for years has had his paperwork caught in the bureaucratic morass of the U.S. Department of State. And now he lives in fear -hiding from the Taliban. "Afghan interpreter beaten, tortured by Taliban in front of family as his SIV application lags", Fox News, September 10, 2021.

Refugee Crisis in Afghanistan. Millions of Afghans have let their homes and livelihoods due to the war and are likely on the move seeking refuge in other countries. "With the evacuation over, Afghanistan is left to contend with a worsening refugee crisis", The RAND Blog, September 7, 2021. See also "Internally Displaced Afghans Pose Major Crisis for New Taliban Government", Gandhara Blog, September 8, 2021.

Left Behind. Brandon Scott writes about the national security implications of leaving Afghans behind. "Why America Should Care About Afghanistan", Medium.com, September 7, 2021.

Taliban SF - Badri 313. The Taliban's elite special forces unit known as the "Badri Command" not only has well-trained hardened fighters - it has a component that trains suicide bombers. Read more in "Inside the Taliban's special forces Suicide Squad", The New York Post, September 9, 2021.

Khalilizad - the Face of Failure. The U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation will be remembered for helping author the U.S - Taliban withdrawal agreement approved and implemented by the Trump administration. In February 2020 he tweeted "We have signed an agreement with the Taliban that achieves U.S. objectives". Twenty months later the Afghan government collapsed after the Taliban took district after district and provincial city after provincial city - finally entering Kabul unopposed. "Brokering exit from Afghanistan, U.S. envoy Khalilzad became face of diplomatic debacle", Reuters, September 10, 2021.

Biometrics - the Good and the Bad. From ethical dilemmas on data security to worst-case scenarios unfolding in real time - the Taliban's rise to power in Afghanistan is spurring urgent concern about the safety of data that aid groups have collected over 20 years. "Biometric data and the Taliban: What are the risks?", The New Humanitarian, September 2, 2021.

The New Regime. The Taliban have named a slate of officials to head an interim government in Afghanistan. A group of experts review the roster and assess it implications for the country's near-term future. "Who Will Run the Taliban Government?", Crisis Group, September 9, 2021. With all the optimism that some folks are expressing for the Taliban 2.0 it is important to remember that 17 out of the Taliban's 33 cabinet ministers are on the United Nations sanctions list for their ties to terrorism. There will be some divisiveness among the Taliban leadership - see "The Taliban's foreign dilemmas", The Stategist, Australian Strategic Policy Institute, September 10, 2021.

Deutsche Welle Staff Crosses Pakistan Border. Correspondents for DQ were able to leave Afghanistan with their families. At first they tried to leave by air from Kabul - attempting entry to HKIA-N via the north gate. They eventually crossed at the Torkham border crossing more than 100 miles to the east of Kabul. But DW still has more staff to bring out. "DW correspondents able to leave Afghanistan", Deutsche Welle, September 10, 2021. In other news there are reports that Germany will soon reopen its embassy in Kabul.

Taliban Governance. Lyse Doucet writes about the makeup of the new government - overwhelmingly drawn from Pashtun tribes and not a single woman. The Ministry of Vice and Virtue is back and the Women's Affairs Ministry is gone. See "Afghanistan: A new order begins under the Taliban's governance", BBC News, September 9, 2021.

Looking Back 20 Years. General McConville, head of the U.S. Amry says lessons must be learned because terrorism is not going away. "Army Chief Calls for Afghanistan Review: 'Let the Cards Fall Where They Fall", Defense One, September 9, 2021.

Afghanistan and Sources of Revenue. The Taliban 2.0 are working towards ensuring that they are not dependent on external sources of revenue. They are striving to avoid extreme external dependence and achieve financial and military independence. They began this process before taking power in Kabul. Read "The economics of Taliban takeover", Observer Research Foundation, September 10, 2021.


Evacuees Depart Naval Station Rota

 Evacuees from Afghanistan board a United States bound U.S. Air Force C-17
Globemaster III, at Naval Station (NAVSTA) Rota, Sept. 1, 2021.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Nathan Carpenter)


Thursday, September 9, 2021

Taliban Give Permission for AMCITs to Leave. An agreement has been reached with the Taliban that would allow 200 American civilians and third country nationals who remained in Afghanistan after the end of the Kabul noncombatant evacuation operation to depart on charter flights from Kabul airport. Those on the manifest include passport holders from Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Ukraine, Canada, and Germany. The departures are expected to take place on a Qatar Air fight on Thursday, September 9, 2021. See "Taliban gives permission for at least 200 Afghan dual nationals, including Americans, to leave the country", The Washington Post, September 9, 2021. NSC Spokesperson on Qatar Airways Flight. The White House, Sep 9, 2021.

U.S. Govt Collaboration with Vet Groups Aiding Afghans. The White House has approved a recommendation by the nation's top military officer that the administration create a "public/private partnership" with the ad hoc groups that have been working to evacuate American citizens and at-risk Afghans from the country". Read more in "White House approves 'partnership' with vets evacuating U.S. citizens, Afghan allies", Politico, September 9, 2021.

Mazar-i-Sharif - a Bit of a Mess.The blame game on the six grounded aircraft with a mix of AMCITs, LPRs, and at-risk Afghans waiting to depart continues. The Department of State isn't exactly covering itself in glory in this situation. The Taliban, of course, are just being the Taliban. The Taliban cite 'technical issues' and the lack of a fully functioning Interior or Foreign Ministry as complications. Meanwhile, the people on the ground are running out of money, patience, and hope. State claims to not know who the people are that wish to fly out - yet the charitable organizations sponsoring the aircraft have provided State (in most cases) with the passenger manifest. One sticking point is the documentation of the people on the aircraft. They don't fit the 'categories' that will be allowed entry into a transit point and onward travel to the U.S. If it was a case of just AMCITs getting on a plane - the Taliban would probably give it clearance and State wouldn't be an obstacle. But . . . there is a mix of AMCITs, LPRs, SIVs, and just 'others'. Read more in "The dangerous confusion over Mazar-i-Sharif", Politico, September 7, 2021.

Next Steps and Endgame for the DoS? There are some that believe the Department of State actually has a plan - that it is not articulating to the media. The 'plan' is that the State Department is going to concentrate on getting U.S. citizens out. That is what is going to cause the Biden administration the most damage politically if they don't get that done. The U.S. government has limited diplomatic leverage with the Taliban and few resources on the ground. Once they get close to a diplomatic agreement with the Taliban on the evacuation of U.S. citizens the DoS will tell all AMCITs to stay in (or move to) Kabul. The DoS will fly one or two charter planes into Kabul airport and tell AMCITs to proceed to the airport for boarding. Security would be provided by the Taliban - which they can do if they want to. This will be a limited time event. And other than words and bluster that will likely be the extent of DoS doing anything else.

Qatar, US Embassy (Afg), DoS, Talbian, and AMCITs. The relocation of the US Embassy Afghanistan in Qatar, the apparent good relations Qatar has with the new government of Afghanistan, Qatar technicians running the airport (ATC, passenger service, etc.), and other factors may have some bearing on the fate of AMCITS remaining in Afghanistan. It would not come as a surpise if Qatar is playing a major role in the negotiations between the U.S. and the Taliban on this issue. In addition, a lot of the legwork (manifesting, screening, and processing) of the AMCITs may be handled by Qatar officials.


Afghan Child Welcomed to Quantico

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.


Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Secretary Blinken on Tour in Europe. After leaving Qatar where the Secretary delivered his victory speech / pep talk to the embassy staff workers he is heading to Germany to visit Ramstein Air Base where thousands of Afghans are being temporarily housed. There are a lot of critics of Blinken - one is Bing West. Read his assessment of America's chief diplomat in "Secretary Blinken's Gibberish about Afghanistan", National Review, September 7, 2021.

SECDEF on Tour as Well. It seems all the heavyweights of the Biden administration are visiting Europe and the Middle East. Secretary of Defense Austin is visiting nations in the ME. (DoD News).

Will Concessions Get Our People Back? It is very likely that there are some negotiations going on that involve the American citizens remaining in Afghanistan. But these negotiations could be problematic. Read more in "Biden Is Running a Hostage Negotiation With the Taliban", FDD, September 8, 2021.

Taliban Leadership Appointments. The new Taliban regime is moving forward in forming up the new government. The leadership appears to be a lot less inclusive than the international community was hoping for. For several weeks the Taliban has indicated that it would have a more moderate and inclusive government - however the positions are currently being filled with senior Taliban figures from the past and present - most of them hardliners.

Read more in "Key Figures in the Taliban's New Theocratic Government", Gandahar Blog. See also "Taliban old guard, wanted terrorist leader take top spots in Afghanistan interim government", The Washington Times, September 7, 2021. The U.S. State Department has issued a statement about the lack of inclusiveness in the new government - let's hope DoS sends a strongly worded memo of dismay and concern!

Final Hours of Kabul's Fall. An inside look of the last hours of the Ghani regime is detailed in "Chao and confusion: The frenzied final hours of the Afghan government", BBC News.

China and Kabul. Derek Grossman examines the China - Afghansitan relationship and concludes that Chinese recognition of the Taliban is all but inevitable. (The RAND Blog, Aug 27, 2021). Of course, there is some gain for China with the recent turn of events in Afghanistan. One could be the occupation of the former U.S. air base at Bagram.

A Cunning Plan Gone Wrong. A group of Americans with weapons on a private plane were arrested in Dubai last week after trying to enter Afghanistan during the US evacuation."Seven armed American civilians arrested en route to Afghanistan", New York Post, September 7, 2021.

US Air Mobility and Afghanistan. Phillip Surrey provides some analysis of the Kabul evacuation and draws the conclusion that the event reinforces the need for a reliable, integrated, and worldwide network of air mobility options. "Lessons from Kabul: The US Military Must Resolve Its Air Mobility Dilemma", Modern War Institute, September 8, 2021.

What Went Wrong? A lot of critics are offering their perspective on how the U.S., allies, and other partner nations didn't achieve success in Afghanistan. Read some recent articles on the failure in Afghanstan.

European Union and Afghan Refugees. The countries of Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovaki, Poland, and Hungary have adopted tough stances on immigration in general and are not receptive to the anticipated wave of Afghan refugees that are likely to flow into Europe. (Gandhara, September 8, 2021.



Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Ariana Afghan Airways flight MeS

FlightRadar24 image shows a Ariana Afghan Airlines Boeing 737-53S landing
at Mazar-i-Sharif airport on Tuesday afternoon (Kabul time), September 7, 2021.

Panjshir Province. The Taliban have taken the main road up into the Panjshir valley . . . but the resistance own the side valleys and continue to fight. Some social media reports indicate that there is a heavy foreign fighter presence assisting the Taliban and that Pakistan is using drones (and maybe aircraft) to bomb the resistance fighters. Bill Roggio provides more details in "Taliban completes conquest of Afghanistan after seizing Panjshir", FDD's Long War Journal, September 6, 2021.

Stranded AMCITs, LPRs, and Afghan SIV Applicants. The State Department and Biden administration would like the U.S. public to believe that the crisis in Afghanistan is over with the removal of U.S. troops and the end of the noncombatant evacuation operation at the Kabul airport. However, . . . it isn't going away. Hundreds of American citizens and even more Lawful Permanent Residents (Green Card holders) are still trapped in Afghanistan with no way to leave. In addition, there are many thousands of Afghans who hold approved Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) or are in the 'pipeline' for SIV approval that are at risk in Afghanistan. It doesn't seem like the State Department is doing any heavy lifting to help the 2,000 people at the Mazar-e-Sharif airport in boarding the six planes on the ground. Read more in "Biden State Dept Says It Has No Resources to Rescue Trapped Flights in Afghanistan, No 'Reliable Means' To Confirm Details: Report", The Daily Wire, September 6, 2021.

Secretary Blinken's Victory Speech. The Secretary of State addressed the staff of the U.S. Embassies of Qatar and Afghanistan in Doha, Qatar on Tuesday, September 7, 2021. Read his remarks is this press release by the DoS (Sep 7, 2021).

MeS Airport. News reports and social media say there are six planes 'stuck' on the ground at the airport in Mazar-e-Sharif. There are a few thousand people - some Americans and many Afghan citizens hoping to board those chartered planes. Some suspect that the Taliban are using the planes and passengers at MeS as a bargaining chip with the U.S. Department of State. The DoS isn't really providing much detail on the situation . . . other than their very bland and un-informative statements. More detail about this sad situation is provided in an article entitled "State Dept blocking private rescue flights from leaving Afghanistan, organizers say: 'Blood is on their hands'", Fox News, September 5, 2021. Kathy Gannon provides her perspective in "Taliban stop planes of evacuees from leaving but unclear why", AP News, September 4, 2021.

Who's Planes Are They? There are various groups trying to get some Afghans out - one is the Ascend group - an NGO attempting to evacuate about 100 Afghan Hazara girls. Read more in "U.S. Citizens and Afghans Wait for Evacuation Flights From Country's North", The New York Times, September 5, 2021. (subcription) Another of the aircraft involved has an association with Eric Montalvo of the Federal Practice Group - it was chartered to fly some 300 people from MeZ to Doha.  An Alaska firm reportedly has contracted with Kam Air to fly out some Americans from MeS - but like the others, its plane is grounded. (Must Read Alaska, Sep 6, 2021).

Four US Citizens Cross Border. The U.S. State Department facilitated the departure of four American citizens from Afghanistan via an overland route to a third country  - according to a senior State Department official. So . . . only a couple of hundred more to go. And then there are the LPRs and SIVs (approved and pending). See "US helped 4 US citizens leave Afghanistan overland, official says", CNN.com, September 6, 2021.

But Then Again - There are Two Sides to a Story. Read "State Dept trying to steal credit for rescue of 4 Americans from Afghanistan, organizer says: 'Total lie'", Fox News, September 6, 2021

U.S. Embassy Kabul - Now in Qatar. The State Department is running its Afghanistan operations from Doha, Qatar. The DoS has advised all Americans to 'shelter in place', enroll in the Department of State's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). The State Department has vowed to improve the visa process for Afghans and rescue those left behind. Details to come? Hmmmm. (Military Times, Sep 3, 2021).

Qatar Aid Flights. The Middle East nation has helped the Taliban restore flight services at the Kabul airport. It is also flying in daily humanitarian aid flights to Kabul. See "Qatar to operate daily aid flights to Afghanistan", Reuters, September 5, 2021.

Camp Atterbury - A Destination for Afghan Evacuees. One of the military installations receiving Afghans who were evacuated from Kabul is a National Guard base in Indiana. "First Afghan refugees bound for Camp Atterbury state arriving", Army Times, September 3, 2021. There are a total of eight military bases that will receive and process Afghans arriving from overseas. See "U.S. bases prepared to process up to 50,000 Afghan evacuees", Military Times, September 3, 2021.

More News about Afghanistan

Book Review - First Casualty. The role of the Central Intelligence Agency in the fall of the Taliban in 2001 is detailed in this book. It has stories of inter-tribal tensions, the critical role of air power, partnerships with Afghan warlords, and of the death of CIA officer Mike Spann in northern Afghanistan. (The Cipher Brief, Sep 6, 2021).

Commentary on the U.S. Departure from Afghanistan. "The forever war is finally over. The age of unpeace has begun." Read the musings of Mark Leonard, director of the European Council on Foreign Relations, in "The Afghan tragedy and the age of unpeace", The Strategist, Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), September 7, 2021.

ANDSF Personnel Data Bases - Now a Huge Problem. The various digital databases and applications provided to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces are now looming as a big problem for those who served in the security forces. The Taliban know who you are - have your fingerprints, photographs, and in many cases pictures of your iris and face. Over the past 20 years more than 700,000 members of the ANDSF were enrolled in the Afghan Personnel and Pay System - an application that had over 40 data fields about individuals of the ANDSF. Read more in "US-built databases a potential tool of Taliban repression", Associated Press, September 7, 2021.

Afghan Withdrawal Plan. U.S strategy put the Defense and State departments on divergent paths. The troops were pulling out but the diplomats were staying - and were left exposed when the Taliban took over. One question was why to close Bagram so soon. Read more "Inside Biden's Afghanistan Withdrawal Plan: Warnings, Doubts but Little Change", The Wall Street Journal, September 5, 2021. (subscription)

Afghanistan and More Terrorism. Oved Lobel details how the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan will embolden and strengthen jihadist groups in Afghanistan and around the world. He provides warnings about Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Agency (ISI) and the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) - also known as the Pakistani Taliban. Read more in "How Afghanistan's Fall to the Taliban Increases the Global Terrorims Threat", Real Clear Defense, September 7, 2021.



Evacuees board aircraft departing NAS Signonella

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Heather Neef, assigned to U.S. Air Force 7th Reconnaissance Squadron, waves goodbye to evacuees from Afghanistan as they prepare to board a bus before departing Naval Air Station (NAS) Sigonella, Sept. 4, 2021.
(U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Erika L. Kugler)


Monday, September 6, 2021

Hundreds of AMCITs and LPRs Left in Afghanistan. Veteran-led rescue groups say the Biden administration's estimate that 'around a hundred' U.S. citizens were left behind in Afghanistan is too low and also overlooks hundreds of other people they consider to be equally important: permanent legal residents with green cards. The State Department said that those AMCITs and LPRs left behind have been contacted and told to expect further details about routes out once those have been arranged. See "Rescue groups: US tally misses hundreds left in Afghanistan", AP News, September 3, 2021. There are more than a thousand evacuees (some reports say 2,000) in at the Mazar-e-Sharif airport waiting to board at least six planes lacking clearance to take off - the wait has been more than a week for some.

DoS Afghanistan Inquiries. The Department of State has updated its page on advise to U.S. Citizens, Lawful Permanent Residents, and Special Immigrant Visa Applicants.
https://www.state.gov/afghanistan-inquiries/

DoS Press Release. The U.S., with support from partners and allies, put together a global network to relocate more than 124,000 people to safety, including 6,000 U.S. citizens. As of 6 Sep nearly 40,000 people have departed overseas processing sites and have arrived in the U.S. The DoS is working in conjunction with DHS, DoD, FBI, National Counterterrorism Center, and additional intelligence community partners to expedite the processing and vetting of Afghans before they are allowed into the United States. This includes reviews of both biographic and biometric data. "The United States Conducts Unprecendented Relocation Effort", Fact Sheet, U.S. Department of State, September 6, 2021.

Has Panjshir Province Fallen? Most news media outlets are reporting that the mountainous region north of Kabul has been taken by the Taliban on Monday, September 6th. The resistance leaders are said to be in a safe location - probably Tajikistan. A senior official of the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan confirmed the news. See "Taliban say they took Panjshir, last holdout Afghan province", Associated Press, September 6, 2021.

Kosovo Hosting At-Risk Afghans. Secretary of State Antony Blinken thanked Kosovo for its humanitarian assistance to people fleeing Afghanistan.

SOF Presence at Ramstein Air Base. "Our Experience: On the Ground with Afghan Evacuees", Special Operations Association of America (SOAA).

Sending Money to Afghanistan. Many Afghans have friends and family members in the United States - and in many cases there is a need to send money from the states to Afghanistan. There is some good news - the U.S. will allow personal remittances to flow to Afghanistan. (Reuters, Sep 2, 2021).

Embassy Workers and Commandos Left Behind. As many as 2,000 U.S. Embassy contractors and immediate family members were left behind in Kabul as the embassy staff fled to the Kabul airport. Many have worked at the embassy for more than a decade. They are among the many that are considered "at-risk" - students who attended the American University of Afghanistan, applicants for a Special Immigrant Visa, and members of Afghanistan's special forces and commandos. "U.S. Embassy contractors, visa applicants among Afghans left behind after one of the largest airlifts in history", The Washington Post, September 5, 2021. (subscription)

Kabul Airport Now Open. The Kabul airport has reopened for domestic flights - although it is operating with no radar or navigation systems in place. Qatari technical officials have prepared the airport for international humanitarian flights. Seven flights flew on Saturday and three were planned for Sunday. Commerical international flights will likely not happen until the radar and navigation systems are fully operational - there are flight insurance and international aviation guidelines that are factored into that event. Read more in "Kabul airport reopens for domestic flights with no radar as Taliban battle resistance fighters in last holdout", The Washington Post, September 5, 2021.

WhatsApp Fined. Ireland's Data Protection Commission has fined WhatsApp US$267 million for violating the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). CyberSecurity Connect, September 3, 2021.

"All Rapport, No Results". Rachel Tecott tells us what Afghanistan's collapse reveals about the flaws in US security force assistance. (Modern War Institute, Aug 26, 2021).

'Burn Your Jerseys'. Once symbol of a new Afghanistan - they had to leave in a daring evacuation plan. Read "Afghanistan's Women's Soccer Team Knew It Had To Get Out.", The Wall Street Journal, September 3, 2021. (subscription)

Who Are These Afghans? Thousands of Afghans have arrived and more are coming. Certainly among those who boarded planes in Kabul were American citizens and many were Lawful Permanent Residents with a Green Card. But the vast majority were not in either of those groups. So just who are they? Originally, the intent of the military and State Department was to board Afghans who had immigrant visas (for family reunification, etc.) or a Special Immigrant Visa (approved) for Afghans who worked with the U.S. military or a U.S. government organization. It may be the vast majority of the Afghans are just people seeking an escape from the Taliban and an opportunity to live in America. The Afghans that served the U.S. as interpreters and in other roles? Most are still in Afghanistan. Read more in "Afghan resettlement raises the question: Who is coming to the U.S.?", The Washington Post, September 5, 2021. (subscription)


United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS)


Sunday, September 5, 2021

UN Humanitarian Flights. Social media is picking up on the news that the UN may soon conduct humanitarian flights. Bringing in needed supplies for humanitarian organizations and flying out people who are manifested by humanitarian groups. The United Nations Humanitarian Air Service operated by the World Food Programme (WFP) will be operating flights in and out of Mazar-e-Sharif and Kandahar to Islamabad. Flight bookings are open for all UNHAS Afghanistan registered user organizations. Humanitarian organizations registered with the UNHAS can register passengers utilizing the United Nations Booking Hub.

Charter Planes in MeS. There are several planes at the MeS airport in northern Afghanistan that were flown in by private sector organizations. For a variety of reasons they have not been granted permission to leave the airport. Fingers are pointed at the Taliban, State Department, as well as other factors. A wide range of groups are attempting to get the DoS to do a little coordination but many suspect that State is part of the problem. Meanwhile some 2,000 people are in a 'wait status'. Some social media reports state that the Taliban want a huge payoff from the charter flights before allowing them to fly out. Representative Mike Waltz - a Green Beret with two tours in Afghanistan - is urging Secretary of State Blinken to clear private evacuation flights out of Afghanistan. (Reuters, Sep 5, 2021).

Domestic Flights. Ariana Afghan Airlines has resumed some flights in Afghanistan between Kabul and three major provincial cities. A Qatar technical team has assisted in reopening the kabul airport for aid and domestic services. You can check the current flight status at the link provided above. Kam Air is reported to have resumed domestic flights. Qatar is reported to have resumed international flights between Qatar and Kabul.

The U.S. and Humanitarian Parole. Tens of thousands of Afghans who supported American efforts in Afghanistan are stranded and in fear for their lives. President Biden has left the SIV (approved or pending) and those with P-1 and P-2 status behind with no clear path to safety. The U.S. should make it easier to apply for humanitarian parole - allowing Afghans to stay safely in the U.S. while their SIV visas or P-1 or P-2 designation is being processed. Read more in "Humanitarian Parole Can Save Afghan Allies. The U.S. Should Let Them Use It", Forbes, September 1, 2021.

Kabul NEO and the 21st TSC. The U.S. Army has been supporting the Afghanistan noncombatant evacuation operation across several sites in Europe. One organization assisting is the 21st Theater Sustainment Command - working with the Air Force, Red Cross, USAID, and the Department of State.The 21st TSC helped to facilitate temporary lodging and onward movement of Afghanistan evacuees. Read more in "21st TSC assist Afghan Evacuees", DVIDS, September 4, 2021.

NOLB Request For Assistance Form. The non-profit organization No One Left Behind (NOlB) has a "NOLB Request for Assistance Form" that allows Afghans to input information into the their data base. The form is for any SIV,SIV in process, or SIV eligible person and their family that needs to be evacuated from Afghanistan.

Team America Relief - Refugee Data Form. If you are still trying to flee Afghanistan, or you are in another country waiting to be naturalized into the United States, and you would like Team America to advocate on your behal or just store your digital documents for later access, then complete the Refugee Data Form.

Poland and Evacuees. Over 100 Afghan evacuees have arrived in Poznan, Poland. The country will host up to 500 Afghans who worked for NATO until they are resettled to permanent homes in other countries. Poland has agreed to accept at least 50 Afghans permanently.

Ramstein Air Base and Evacuees. A humanitarian city has emerged on the Ramstein flight line house 15K evacuees. The U.S. military and other organizations are providing 25K meals and 50K bottles of water a day. In addition, 500 tents, toilet facilities, and medical care is provided.

Chesty Puller and German Buses. A few families were able to navigate through the mass of humanity by displaying signs easily recognizable to Marines. The saga of 'the German buses' is told in this news report as well. "A Legendary Marine's Name as Code: The Ad Hoc Network That Helped Rescue Afghans", NPR, September 4, 2021.

NDS - Flown Out of Kabul. According to U.S. and former Afghan officials, the CIA-trained Afghans from the National Directorate of Security (NDS) made a deal with the Americans at HKIA-N. They would provide security in return for being airlifted out of the country. Read more in "Amid Desperation at kabul Airport, Evacuation Picks Up Pace", The New York Times, August 29, 2021. (subscription)

A Near Miss. An RAF pilot missed smashing his aircraft into a bus carrying evacuees at Kabul airport by about 10 feet after a vehicle steered onto the runway as he was taking off. Sky News, September 4, 2021.

Video - "Will I end up dying here?". A 25 year old U.S. citizen worries on her fate now that she has been left behind in this 3 minute video. "American Stuck in Afghanistan Shares Her Story", VOA News.

KSK and 160th Team Up for Rescue Missions. "Night Stalker Little Bird Helicopters Flew German Commandos On Kabul Misson", The War Zone, August 25. Germany's KSK and the 160th SOAR joined forces to evacuate foreigners deep in Taliban-controlled Kabul. The Germans had a pair of SOF-modified Airbus H145M helicopters on HKIA-N to support their mission - but it is unknown if they were used.

CIA and Its Spies. The agency has a long history of extracting people from danger zones. Read how the Central Intelligence Agency evacuated most of its spies from Afghanistan. (Foreign Policy, Sep 3, 2021). (subscription)

Refugee Camp. Some Afghans are finding their way across the border and are now in makeshift camps on the Pakistani side. Hopefully humanitarian assistance is on the way.

Task Force Pineapple. A network of special operations veterans and contacts on the ground came together to evacuate American citizens and Afghan allies. Task Force Pineplle is now moving to the next phase of their operations - getting hundreds of Americans left behind in Afghanistan to safety. "Pineapple Express to Launch Phase II for Americans Left in Afghanistan", Brietbart, September 2, 2021.

The Fight Continues? Remnants of the Afghan security forces are continuing their defense of the Panjshir Valley. The Taliban have moved thousands of their fighters to the area in an attempt to dislodge the resistance. Numerous messages by the Taliban state they have achieved victory but apparently . . . not quite yet. With the departure of President Ashraf Ghani the current vice president, Amrullah Saleh, has become Acting President under Afghan law.

Biden's Reputation - Taking a Hit. The after action reviews on the collapse of the Afghan government and the mess at the Kabul airfield is going to be a permanent aspect of President Biden's first year in office. Peggy Noonan writes that The Afghan Fiasco Will Stick to Biden in the Wall Street Journal (Sep 2, 2021). The Biden administration is taking efforts to minimize the fall of the Afghan government to the Taliban and the close association that the Taliban have with al Qaeda. The 'big threat', apparently, is not a Taliban regime providing sanctuary to al Qaeda but the presence of the Islamic State in Afghanistan. However, most observers believe that ISKP is an exaggerated threat. (ORF, Aug 29, 2021).

Milley on Possible Afghan Civil War and Terrorist Threat. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said that maintaining U.S. security and intelligence in the region around Afghanistan will be a more difficult task. He states that a civil war in the country is likely and it could lead to the reconstitution of al Qaeda. A broader civil war could provide the conditions to terrorist groups to thrive. He said that the U.S. will need to reestablish some human intelligence networks - and maintain the capability to conduct strike operations. (Fox News, Sep 4, 2021).


MP Holds Childrens Hands in Germany

U.S. Army Soldier from 18th Military Police Brigade provides a helping hand in support
of Operation Allies Refuge September 02, 2021 at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.
Soldiers from the 21st Theater Sustainment command have assisted with providing
security; food, shelter, and other basic necessities; and clean-up at the transit
center on RAB - all part of preparing travelers from Afghanistan for onward
 movement to their final destination. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Katelyn Myers)


Saturday, September 4, 2021

Hundreds of Americans and thousands of at-risk Afghans are stranded in Afghanistan. Their future is uncertain and many will face death at the hands of the Taliban regime. There is news that the Kabul airport may reopen with assistance from Turkey and Qatar. Apparently domestic flights will resume shortly, followed by international flights. Rumors of a State Department agreement with the Taliban regime are in the news media. Social media also reports that the United Nations could begin evacuation flights. The United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) has already resumed humanitarian flights delivering relief supplies to over 160 humanitarian organizations - flying from Islamabad into Mazar-i-Sharif in the north and Kandahar in the south. Charter flights in and out of MeS is problematic - the existence of an air control element is questioned. This could provide an avenue of escape for the American citizens and Lawful Legal Residents (LPRs) still trapped there. It remains to be seen if the Taliban will let the Afghans SIV holders leave via the Kabul airport - or continue to hunt them down and execute them. The rise of the Taliban and fighting that brought it to power has caused a humanitarian crisis within Afghanistan.

"The Mysterious White 727" at HKIA-N and Afghan SOF. The tragic story of the Kabul airlift has generated a lot of stories about what happened and what some people think happened. In addition, there are the odd accounts that will peak the interest of many participants and observes. One is about an old 727 that showed up among the military transports at Kabul airport which drew a lot of interest among flight trackers and the open-source intel gurus. BLUF: Hundreds of Afghan SOF that were lodged in a warehouse at HKIA-N were flown out to Tajikistan to await further movement in a tent community. Read "The Story of the Mysterious White 727 That Appeared in Kabul After the Bombing of Abbey Gate", by Tyler Rogoway, The Drive.

The Carabinieri at HKIA-N. The soldier-policemen of this hybrid outfit - the 3nd Mobile Brigade - went outside the wire to bring thousands to safety. They rescued Italian citizens, other foreign nationals, and at-risk Afghans through Abbey Gate. The methods used were unique. The people evacuated were told to dress in a certain way, communicate with the Carabinieri using WhatsApp, and provide their locations via Google Maps. The Carabinieri would then venture into the throngs of Afghans crowding the gate, find them the people they were looking for, and escort them onto HKIA-N. Read about it in "Italy's Carabinieri Were the Perfect Force for the Kabul Evacuation", by Elisabeth Braw, Defense One, September 3, 2021.

Irish Ranger Wing at HKIA-N. A small detachment of an elite Irish unit succeeded in getting 36 of their country's citizens out of Afghanistan. "Inside the hero Irish Army Ranger's courageous Afghan mission as 36 rescued safely", by Declan Power, Irish Mirror, August 27, 2021.

A New Government. The world is watching for the announcement by the Taliban about the formation of a new government. There are reports that Baradar will lead the new Afghan government. Naturally, there is attention being given to the 'inclusiveness' of the new Taliban regime. Certainly there is a bit of infighting among the Taliban for key positions in government. There is pressure from the international community to bring in technocrats and non-Pastuns into the new government. This is a key point that will determine international recognition and aid as well as dampening down internal resistance. "Taliban Close to Forming New Government Amid Fighting Over Opposition Holdout", Gandhara, September 3, 2021.

National Resistance Front and the Panjshir Valley. A reincarnation of the Northern Alliance rebel group that fought the Taliban regime in the late 1990s and aligned itself with U.S. Special Forces in the fall of 2001 has resumed its fight against the Taliban. It has reconstituted in the Panjshir Valley and the Taliban are attempting to push them out. The valley is in the Hindu Kush mountain range located about 60 miles north of Kabul. During the occupation of Kabul in August 2021 by the Taliban thousands of refugees and some remnants of the Afghan security forces fled in the Panjshir Valley. The National Resistance Front is led by Ahmad Massoud, age 32, the son of Ahmad Shah Massoud - known at "The Lion of Panjshir". Read more in "Afghan resistance digs in to defend one remaining valley not conquered by Taliban", Yahoo! News, September 3, 2021.

Kazakhstan Says No to U.S. Afghan Refugees. The Kazakh president has said his country will not accept refugees who have worked for U.S. military and governmental organizations in Afghanistan. He stated his country would not be a temporary staging area for the refugees and migrants. More than 200 ethnic Kazakhs were evacuated from Afghanistan to Kazakhstan.

Tajikistan - Unable to Host Refugees. Thousands of Afghans attempting to flee the Taliban regime are finding neighboring countries are limiting access at border crossings. The interior minister of Tajikistan stated that his country lacks the infrastructure to host Afgahn refugees. He called upon international organizations - like the United Nations - to assist Central Asian states. In July 2021 Tajikistan stated it would accept up to 100,000 refugees - but then backed away from that statement. "Tajik Interior Minister Says His Country Unable to Host Many Afghan Refugees", Gandhara Blog, September 2, 2021.

Border Crossings. Pakistan's interior minister announced on September 2nd that the border crossing into Afghanistan at Friendship Gate in Chaman would be temporarily closed. Some people with proper identity documents are allowed to cross. The border at Spin Boldak opens and closes periodically. The Turkmenistan and Uzbek borders are currently closed. Flights into Uzbekistan are possible but there are strict rules to observe.

Operation Allied Refuge Update. Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby and Air Force General Glen VanHerck of the U.S. Northern Command briefed the press on the DoD effort to support the Department of Homeland Security in the immigration process upon arrival in the United States. Currently there are 8 DoD locations for the Afghan immigrants and refugees. The camps have a current capacity of 36,000 and it is anticipated that the camps will have a total capacity of 50,000. The current Afghan population (as of Sep 3) is about 25,600. DoD is providing transportation, water, food, recreation, and limited medical care. The DHS is the lead organization for the immigration process and helping the Afghans to transition to their new lives. You can watch the press briefing online.

A Re-direction of ANDSF Funds. The Global SOF Foundation is advocating for the $3 billion in money planned for the now non-existent Afghan security forces to be redirected to intelligence assets and operations in the region. (Military Times, Aug 27, 2021).


Tent City Ramstein Air Base - Kabul NEO

Tent City at Ramstein Air Base


Friday, September 3, 2021

America's Honor - and Afghanistan. There are two separate issues being discussed about Afghanistan. One is the decision to liquidate America's committment to Afghanistan, the other is the manner in which it was executed and how the U.S. left its SIV applicants in danger. Read "A Dishonorable Exit", by Eliot Cohen, The Atlantic, September 3, 2021.

Charter Flights. What is puzzling is why private charter flights are not being allowed to land or leave from Afghanistan. Read more in an article by Lela Gilbert entitled "Why Is the US Government Blocking Refugee Flights From Afghanistan", Religion Unplugged, September 3, 2021. Some social media posts indicate that there are five or six large aircraft on the tarmac at Mazar-e-Sharif that can fly AMCITs and others to other countries.

Waltz tweet 20210903
Tweet by Rep. Waltz 20210903

What is Next for Private Sector Efforts? Some of the groups formed up will go away now that the push to get people onto HKIA-N is no longer an option. There are other groups that claim the ability to move people through nets / safehouses on the ground to safety - could happen, but that is tough to do. Certainly there are things that can be done to help those that did get to safety in their adjustment to life in American.

The Resistance. Many Americans are paying attention to the Afghans who have now arrived in the United States and the others at transit points who are waiting to arrive here. However, there are some tracking the events taking place in the Panjshir province of Afghanistan. Read more in "Heavy clashes between Taliban and anti-Taliban group in Afghanistan", CNN.com, September 2, 2021.

Son of Afghan SIV Now in U.S. Army - Helping Afghans in Kuwait. In 2015 Spc. Toraj Rozbeh's family immigrated to the United States as a Special Immigrant Visa family. In 2017 he joined the Army National Guard, deployed to Afghanistan in 2020, and is now in Kuwait assisting in Operation Allies Refuge. (DVIDS, Aug 30, 2021).

Afghans in Wisconsin and the KY Air Guard. One of the military installations receiving and housing Afghan evacuees is Fort McCoy, Wisconsin. The Department of Defense is supporting the U.S. State Department in the relocation effort with temporary housing, sustainment, and support for Afghan Special Immigrant Visa principal applicants, their families, and other individuals at risk. The Kentucky Air Guard played a key role in the Afghan evacuation in the Fort McCoy operation. (DVIDS, Sep 3, 2021).

Operation Soccer Balls. There have been some successes and failures in private sector operations to get Afghans onto HKIA-N. One was an attempt to get members of the Afghan national female soccer team, staff, and others to safety - but one that failed due to the large IED attack that killed 13 Americans and over 100 Afghans at Abbey Gate. Read more in "Afghanistan's national girls soccer team in hiding after terrorist blast", New York Post, September 3, 2021.

Video of HKIA-N - A Marine Perspective. One U.S. Marine captured the chaos and heartbreak of the NEO operation in Kabul on his Go-Pro. Read "The Pentagon's filtered version of the Kabul rescue mission looks nothing like what really went down", by Paul Szoldra, Task & Purporse, September 3, 2021.

Evacuees and Getting to HKIA-N Gates. The horror stories on the difficulties that evacuees had in getting to U.S. and other foreign national forces so they could have access to the airfiled are continue to surface in the media. Read "Taliban fighter told evacuee 'go and tell the State Department to f--- themselves,' report says", The New York Post, September 3, 2021.

Representative Has Words about President Biden. House Intelligence Committee member Rep. Mullin said that the White House and Department of Defense are lying about the ability of U.S. citizens to access the Kabul airport during the noncombatant evacuation operation. Fox News, September 3, 2021.

Podcast about Task Force Dunkirk. Lt. Col. (Ret.) Russel Worth Parker is interviewed about what some private sector groups are doing to assist those wanting to depart Afghanistan. Pick Up The Six, SoundCloud, September 2, 2021. A lot of chat about Team American.

Tips for Afghan Academia and Students. The academic world seems to have methods of saving the safely store academic documents for refugee and at-risk people. The University of California at Davis has a site called "Backpack: Universal Tool for Academic Mobility". Read more in "A UC-Davis Professor's Mission: Saving Academic Credentials in Afghanistan", The Chronicle of Higher Education, August 31, 2021.


KC-10 Extender with Afghans arriving at Rota, Spain.

Evacuees from Afghanistan depart a U.S. Air Force KC-10 Extender after landing at Naval Station (NAVSTA) Rota Aug. 31, 2021. NAVSTA Rota is currently supporting the Department of State mission to facilitate the safe departure and relocation of U.S. citizens, Special Immigration Visa recipients, and vulnerable populations from Afghanistan. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Nathan Carpenter, August 31, 2021.



Thursday, September 2, 2021

Now that the evacuation of the Kabul airport is over the attention of some in government is the recovery of those hundreds American citizens left behind. In addition, the Lawful Permanent Residents and Special Immigrant Visa holders - number in the many thousands are a concern (or should be a concern) of the State Department. The U.S. and other nations are in discussions with the Taliban as to when and how these individuals will be allowed to leave. Naturally there is a bit of bargaining taking place.

Meanwhile, while the respective governments hold their conversations - private organizations of all types are conducting their own private initiatives to get AMCITs, LPRs, SIVs, and at-risk Afghans out of Afghanistan. Unfortunately, it seems that the State Department is putting up huge roadblocks to these endeavors.

There are planes ready to fly into Mazar-e-Sharif to pick up foreign nationals as well as at-risk Afghans and bring them to countries who have expressed a willingness to receive them. However, the U.S. State Department, for reasons that can't be fathomed, is putting up obstacles left and right to make sure that this does not happen. Thousands of people have converged on MeS waiting for transportation out - there is not a hotel room to be had.

Overland movement to a border crossing is not a good option at this time. If one of the neighboring countries is receptive to border crossers it usually is only for people who are on 'a list' provided by the U.S. State Department or some other foreign government. There are some stories of successful exits along the border but for the most part people have gathered in throngs on the Afghanistan side hoping for the posts to open.


Toys Offered to Children in Qatar - Kabul NEO

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Scott R. McCoy, with 445th Airlift Wing offers toys to qualified evacuees at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, Aug. 26, 2021. The Department of Defense remains committed to supporting the evacuation of American citizens, Special Immigrant Visa applicants and other at-risk individuals from Afghanistan. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. True Thao)


Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Afghans Moving to the Border. Thousands and thousands of Afghans are attempting to flee the Taliban and seek refuge in neighboring countries. The Afghans are at the gates of the border crossings - Torkham gate at the Pakistan border, the Islam Qala boarder post with Iran, and a few others. Although the Taliban have declared an amnesty for those who worked with U.S. and NATO forces they have continued their executions of those they find in their houses and at traffic checkpoints.

Private Sector Extraction Attempts Post-NEO. Now that the latest phase of the abandonment (Kabul airport evacuation) of the at-risk Afghans by the U.S. government has concluded, concerned U.S. veterans are looking for ways to get their former interpreters and others safely out of Afghanistan. The work of the various veterans groups to get Afghans onto HKIA was partially successful - despite the State Department actions. However, the work needed to establish a post-NEO functioning evacuation mechanism by private sector groups in Afghanistan is most likely beyond the ability and capability of most of those wishing to do so. There are a lot of groups showing up on the internet and on social media claiming the ability to move Afghans into neighboring countries. While some may be able to extract Afghans most probably can't. There are those that can and hopefully they can continue the good work.

Shelter in Place. At-risk Afghans (SIVs and others) are actively being hunted down and executed by the Taliban. These Afghans have a difficult choice to make for themselves and their families. Flee to a neighboring country (by whatever limited means available) or shelter in a safe place, hoping not to be discovered by the Taliban, and wait for the situation to develop. Each option is a dangerous. The Afghans have to decide which is the least bad option.

Airport Reopening? A Qatari technical team arrived in Kabul's airport on September 1, 2021, Wednesday. The Qatar Airways plane was the first aircraft to arrive at the facility following the departure of U.S. forces in the early morning of August 31st (Kabul time). The Qatari team will enter into discussions on reopening the airport. Several western countries are engaged in talks with the Taliban to resume the evacuation of foreign nationals. Read more in "Qatari technical team onboard first flight to land in Kabul airport", Doha News, September 1, 2021.

Department of State Re-engaging? The State Department will resume evacuations for American citizens, Legal Permanent Residents, and at-risk Afghans in the near future. They didn't offer very many details. "People stranded in Afghanistan will be provided 'tailored' evacuation routes: State Department", Fox News, September 1, 2021.

NGOs and UN As an Option. The one constant about non-governmental organizations is they are not reluctant to work in a war zone and they are not fussy about the current regime in power no matter how despicable and notorious. This is good news for the Afghan SIVs stranded by our State Department. Money is going to run out for the new Taliban regime. NGOs have a certain amount of leverage that allows them to operate in Afghanistan - they bring needed humanitarian services the Taliban cannot provide, at least initially. Once the NGOs and the United Nations is on the ground it may be possible to put your at-risk Afghans in contact with them. Could be an option for some.

And the SIV Applicants? In the early days of the evacution, the joint U.S. military and diplomatic coordination team at Kabul's airport gave the Taliban a list of people the U.S. wanted to evacuate. The list included Afghans who served alongside the U.S. during the war and sought special immigrant visas. But after thousands of visa applicants arrived, the State Department asked applicants not to come to the airport. One defense official was quoted as saying "Basically, they just put all those Afghans on a kill list." August 26, 2021. "US officials gave Taliban list of evacuees: report", The Hill. The U.S. still doesn't have reliable data on who was evacuated from Afghanistan - according to a senior State Department official. See "Majority of Interpreters, Other U.S. Visa Applicants Were Left Behind in Afghanistan", The Wall Street Journal, September 1, 2021.

And DoD's Narrative. SECDEF Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Milley held a press briefing on September 1, 2021. A lot of 'feel good' verbage, some facts and figures, and some Q and A. DoD Transcript, September 1, 2021. The two seemed to echo the president's characterization of the evacuation as an "extraordinary success."


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