Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
Kabul: The United States and Qatar are reportedly finalizing a deal to temporarily house thousands of Afghans who helped the U.S. military and their families as conflict between the Taliban and the Afghan government continues to escalate.
As many as 8,000 people from Afghanistan could be temporarily housed in Doha, Qatar, while awaiting decisions on their Special Immigration Visas (SIV) to the United States, a source told CNN. The source told CNN that, if US diplomats are able to make the deal with Qatar, an estimated 1,000 to 2,000 Afghans would arrive in Doha ‘soon.’
“We are evaluating all available options. We have no announcements to make on third-country relocation sites for Afghan SIV applicants,” a spokesperson for the US State Department told the outlet. US President Joe Biden’s administration has been holding secret talks with other countries in a desperate attempt to secure deals to temporarily house the at-risk Afghans, four U.S. officials told Reuters.
The Biden administration has explored having Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan take in thousands of applicants, but that effort has made little progress. The White House has also had discussions with such countries as Kosovo and Albania – which underscores the administration’s desire to protect Afghans from Taliban reprisals while safely completing the process of approving their U.S. visas.
Meanwhile, Ben Wallace, the UK defence secretary, in an interview said that the UK was so aghast at the US decision to withdraw completely from Afghanistan next month that it had canvassed other Nato allies to see if there was support for a reconfigured alliance to continue the stabilisation force in Afghanistan without the US.
Asked if he was worried that the Taliban’s resurgence in Afghanistan could lead to terror attacks in the UK in the future, Wallace told Sky News: “I am absolutely worried that failed states are breeding grounds for those types of people. “I felt this was not the right time or decision to make because, of course, al-Qaida will probably come back – certainly would like that type of breeding ground. That is what we see: failed states around the world lead to instability, lead to a security threat to us and our interests.”
Wallace revealed that once other Nato allies – understood to include France and Germany – had rejected forming a coalition of the willing without the US, the UK concluded that it could not go it alone. Wallace also said he believed that the initial decision by Donald Trump to engage with the Taliban in peace talks and then to first announce a US withdrawal in February 2020 was a mistake. Even former CIA Station Chief Dan Hoffman said on Friday that Kabul will be under siege within days and that the Biden administration did not plan effectively.
This comes even as a UK government spokesperson has confirmed that UK PM Boris Johnson is chairing an emergency Cobra meeting on Friday afternoon to address the situation in Afghanistan. On 12 August, the government announced that 600 UK personnel would be sent to help organise the withdrawal of UK nationals and former Afghan staff and their families.
Kabul: The Presidency announced on Saturday that President Ashraf Ghani had donated 40 million afghanis to address the situation of IDPs.
President Ghani said that a camp will be set up to house the displaced and that all the necessary facilities, including electricity mosques and other facilities, will be provided. “I will help the IDPs with 40 million afghanis and all the activities will be done through emergency committees,” the president added. President Ghani has stressed that a fund will be set up to deal with IDPs to coordinate private sector assistance and that an urgent work plan should be set up for 10,000 people.
Meanwhile, Canada continues to be deeply concerned by the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and the risks it poses for many vulnerable Afghans. Canada plans to resettle more than 20,000 vulnerable Afghans including women leaders, human rights workers and reporters to protect them from Taliban reprisals, Canadian Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said on Friday.
Canada continues to be deeply concerned by the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and the risks it poses for many vulnerable Afghans, the Canadian immigration office said in a statement. Canada will continue to implement the special immigration program for Afghans who contributed to Canada’s efforts in Afghanistan, the statement said.
“In addition, we will introduce a special program to focus on particularly vulnerable groups that are already welcomed to Canada through existing resettlement streams, including women leaders, human rights defenders, journalists, persecuted religious minorities, LGBTI individuals, and family members of previously resettled interpreters,” the statement said. “The program will welcome government-supported and privately sponsored refugees, along with those sponsored by family already in Canada.”
“Offering refuge to the world’s most vulnerable speaks to who we are as Canadians, particularly in times of crisis. As more Afghan refugees continue to seek shelter in Canada, we’re redoubling our efforts to help 20,000 Afghan refugees—who remain vulnerable wherever they go—find safety here. The situation in Afghanistan is heart-breaking, and Canada will not stand idly by,” the minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship of Canada said. The program covers both people who want to leave Afghanistan and those already in neighboring countries.
Kabul: President Biden has just sent combat forces back into Afghanistan to evacuate American civilians at the embassy and Afghans who have assisted them in the war effort. U.S. Forces continue to provide security in Kabul, Afghanistan, at Hamid Karzai International Airport and at the U.S. Embassy, Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby told reporters during a briefing on the U.S. mission.
“These are the existing security elements that were already in Kabul,” Kirby explained. “This comprises the [tactical] and lift aviation assets, infantry, security personnel and some intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance assets that are already there at the airport.” There were reports that the first flight landed at the Kabul airport on Saturday morning.
The troop movements that were announced are happening, he said. Three battalions are preparing to move from their locations in the U.S. Central Command’s area of responsibility to Kabul: a Marine Corps battalion that was already pre-staged in the region and has lift sustainment and support capabilities and infantry; another Marine Corps infantry battalion from a Marine Expeditionary Unit; and a U.S. Army infantry battalion. “The rest of their forces will continue to flow over the next couple of days. And I expect that by the end of the weekend the bulk of the 3,000 [service members who are deploying] will be in place,” Kirby said.
The brigade combat team from the 82nd Airborne Division that is prepared to go to Kuwait is a Ready Reserve force, which is preparing to deploy, Kirby said, adding that the team would likely arrive in very short order. Aircraft will support moving civilian personnel, he said, adding that U.S. Transportation Command is working on its plans and sourcing solutions with Air Mobility Command and Centcom to support the mission.
The Pentagon also was moving an additional 4,500 to 5,000 troops to bases in the Gulf countries of Qatar and Kuwait, including 1,000 to Qatar to speed up visa processing for Afghan translators and others who fear retribution from the Taliban for their past work with Americans, and their family members. The temporary build-up of troops for U.S. evacuations highlights the stunning pace of the Taliban takeover of much of the country, less than three weeks before the U.S. is set to officially end nearly 20 years of combat in Afghanistan.
“This is a specific, narrowly focused, tailored mission to help with the safe, secure movement of the reduction of civilian personnel in Kabul, as well as to help support the acceleration of the special immigrant visa process by the State Department,” Kirby emphasized.
“The first movement will consist of three infantry battalions that are currently in the Central Command area of responsibility. They will move to Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul within the next 24 to 48 hours. Two of those battalions are United States Marines and one is a U.S. Army battalion. The next movement will consist of a joint U.S. Army-Air Force support element of around 1,000 personnel to facilitate the processing of SIV applicants. Initial elements of this movement — of this element will arrive in Qatar in the coming days. The third movement is to alert and to deploy one infantry brigade combat team out of Fort Bragg to Kuwait, where they will be postured and prepared, if needed, to provide additional security at the airport. We anticipate those forces will reach Kuwait sometime within the next week,” Kirby said.
These forces are being deployed to support the orderly and safe reduction of civilian personnel at the request of the State Department and to help facilitate an accelerated process of working through SIV applicants. This is a temporary mission with a narrow focus.
The UK Government too said that UK troops will provide force protection and logistical support for the relocation of British nationals where required and assist with the acceleration of the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy (ARAP). “This will help to make sure interpreters and other Afghan staff who risked their lives working alongside UK forces in Afghanistan can relocate to the UK as soon as possible.”
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace MP said, “I have authorised the deployment of additional military personnel to support the diplomatic presence in Kabul, assist British nationals to leave the country and support the relocation of former Afghan staff who risked their lives serving alongside us.”
The additional military support announced today will arrive in Kabul over the coming days. A statement reads, “The UK remains committed to Afghanistan and will continue working as part of the international coalition to support the country’s government through our diplomacy, development and counter terrorism work. This year the UK will provide Afghanistan with more than £100 million of support to improve critical health and education services.”