Afghanistan Withdrawal Going About As Well As Any End To A Forever War Would
The US evacuation from Afghanistan is winding down to meet tomorrow's deadline to get all US troops out of the country, as set by President Biden. The giant C-17 transport planes are still flying out of Kabul's airport, but compared to the massive airlifts of last week, the US announced this morning that it had evacuated just 1,200 people in the previous 24 hours, bringing the total since the end of July to 122,300 evacuees. 116,700 of those evacuations occurred after August 14, when Kabul fell to the Taliban.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, said in a statement this morning that while the evacuation efforts by the US, the EU, and nongovernmental organizations has been "praiseworthy," the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan is only beginning:
"Around 3.5 million people have already been displaced by violence within the country – more than half a million since the start of this year," said Grandi.
"Most have no regular channels through which to seek safety. And in the midst of a clear emergency, with millions in dire need of help, the humanitarian response inside Afghanistan is still desperately underfunded," he added.
Grandi noted that some 2.2 million registered refugees are living in camps in Pakistan and Iran, many of them having been there for years. He noted that while the airlifts will soon no longer be on TV, the tragedy in Afghanistan "will still be a daily reality for millions of Afghans. We must not turn away. A far greater humanitarian crisis is just beginning." [UNHCR]
US Drone Stopped Likely Attack, Killed 10 Civilians
A US drone strike in Kabul Sunday destroyed a car bomb that the U.S. Central Command said had been an "imminent" threat of being used in another attack on the Kabul airport. The missile strike was followed by "secondary " explosions that indicated it was a car bomb, but the attack also killed 10 members of a family living nearby, including seven children, the New York Times reports. One of the adults who died worked with an aid organization, another was a former Afghan army officer and contractor for the US military; both had hoped to be evacuated with their families by the US military. Of course ten deaths is not as terrible as another attack that might have killed hundreds, but it's still horrifying. [NYT]
In a briefing today, Pentagon spokeperson John Kirby said the "threat stream" against the Kabul airport "is still real. It's still active, and, in many cases, it's still specific," and that US forces are "taking it very seriously and we will right up until the end." He also said that there had been rocket attacks aimed toward the airport, but that no one at the airport had been harmed. [CNN]
UN Security Council To Call For Safe Passage
The UN Security Council is expected to approve a resolution this afternoon calling for safe passage for people trying to leave Afghanistan, as well as the establishment of a "safe passage area" at the Kabul airport for people trying to leave the airport itself after the last US plane departs. The resolution was proposed by the UK and France; it's not yet clear whether Russia and China are entirely on board yet, though. [CNN]
Escapes from Afghanistan by land may be difficult; Uzbekistan has now closed its border with Afghanistan, and the country is only allowing planes from Afghanistan to land there if they're in transit to somewhere else. Uzbekistan is not accepting any Afghan refugees. [CNN]
Pakistan's interior minister said in a news conference today that his country hasn't "given refugee status to a single person since Kabul fell," and also says that while "500 to 600" people flown out of Afghanistan are at the Islamabad airport on "special 21 day transit visas," they're all expected to be flown elsewhere by sponsoring nations and organizations. [CNN]
The US and 97 other countries — a bit over half the countries in the world — have issued a joint statement reaffirming their commitment to take in Afghan refugees, and that they will continue issuing travel permission to people trying to leave Afghanistan after tomorrow. Whether the Taliban will allow them to leave remains the question, although the joint statement cited a "clear expectation of and commitment from the Taliban" of safe passage. For everything that's worth. [NYT]
The Flights Are Winding Down
American troops performed a "controlled detonation" Friday of the last CIA base left in Afghanistan, near the Kabul airport. [NYT]
Since last week's suicide bombing outside the airport, which killed at least 170 Afghan civilians and 13 US service members, very few Afghans have been allowed through the airport gates as the military prepares to leave, although the Washington Post notes that "A U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, said there had been no policy decision to exclusively admit American citizens." So it appears to be just an unofficial policy of leaving Afghans to fend for themselves.
The WaPo comments are full of people explaining this is all fine, because if people really had wanted to get out they could have, it's not our job to take care of everyone in the world, if Afghans want a better place to live they should take up arms and fight the Taliban (including, presumably, the children who have been separated from their parents in the chaos), and besides, if Biden had started evacuating Afghans who helped the US any earlier, like right after he announced the US withdrawal, the Afghan military would just have collapsed earlier and it would have been just as bad.
At least the actual reporting includes non-monstrous people like Sunil Varghese, policy director for the International Refugee Assistance Project, who told the Post,
"We're leaving allied Afghans and potentially Americans behind." [...] He praised members of the military and civil society groups for their efforts to help Afghans vulnerable to Taliban reprisal depart the country but said the Biden administration should have begun its evacuation effort far earlier.
"I'm just disappointed that it was so late and so dangerous and so difficult," Varghese said. "We could've done better."
Some of the Afghans still trying to get onto US planes include holders of green cards, and dependents or close relatives of American citizens. Others have visas to go to European countries.
One of the Afghan military's elite commandos, who have worked closely with the United States, said he had been trying to get the attention of U.S. officials for days to appeal for assistance getting out.
"We cannot reach our U.S. mentors in order to help us," he said in an email, speaking on the condition of anonymity to avoid drawing Taliban attention. "We need an emergency evacuation like the other Afghan soldiers, but we cannot get inside the Kabul airport unless we have some supporting documents or recommendations directly from inside the airport."
The Taliban has been calling him, he said.
"I don't know how long I can continue this."
We don't know whether a more orderly advance evacuation could have been planned, but at a gut level, it sure feels like it should have. [WaPo]
To be sure, during the Trump administration, much of the delay in processing visas for Afghans who worked with the US was allegedly the work of Stephen Miller, who may have fucked up the system beyond repair, despite Biden administration efforts to speed up the process since taking it over. [MSNBC]
In a Fox News interview Sunday, Miller himself offered a bizarre defense of the glacial pace of processing visas for Afghan allies:
"Have we forgotten so quickly the 9/11 terrorists were granted visas by our State Department?" he shouted. "Have we forgotten so quickly that all that blood was shed because we weren't able to secure our own immigration system? Now we're going to repeat these mistakes again?"
Yes, all those 9/11 hijackers who had been cleared to assist US troops by military intelligence, that was a thing that happened and a good analogy.
In response to a call by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez that the US should admit all the roughly 200,000 Afghans thought to have connections to the American military and government, Miller very calmly lost his shit and went straight to hyperbole, claiming that if Biden had his way, he'd admit "40 million" Muslims from around the world because Biden is "clinically insane."
This open-ended obligation to take up every one of the 40 million people who would prefer to live here than under Sharia law is clinically insane! And we will rue the day that we made that decision.
And then a literal straw man fell on Miller, causing him to tumble down a slippery slope into a vat of red herring, the end. [Salon]
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.