Daily Evacuation Brief | February 26, 2022
Daily news about Afghanistan and the surrounding region powered by Operation Snow Leopard
LAST 24 HOURS:
A major security operation was launched in Kabul and surrounding towns. The Taliban have dubbed it a ‘clearing operation’ and claims it is focused on rounding up thieves and robbers. It is unclear who specifically is being targeted, but many houses are being searched and at-risk Afghans are advised to maintain a low profile.
In several instances, passports and other documents have been seized.
In two related instances, bullets were found in a home and all males in the household, including minors, were arrested and taken to police stations for questioning. They were released after signing a document disavowing any violence towards the Taliban. The operations are expected to continue for several days.
Another clash occurred on the Afghan-Pakistan border with both sides blaming the other for instigating the incident. 2 civilians have been killed and nearly 30 are reported to have been wounded.
A round of new appointments has been announced to fill both civil and military positions in the regime. The list can be found here.
The Sanang Pass has been closed again due to inclement weather. Travelers attempting to make the journey between the North and Kabul should check on the status prior to getting on the road.
Travelers stranded at the Bakak Pass between Ghor and Bamyan due to snow have been rescued.
NEXT 24 HOURS:
The clearing operation is expected to intensify in and around Kabul. There may be sporadic clashes in the streets, and opposition forces may target Taliban checkpoints at the outskirts of the city. At-risk Afghans are encouraged to hide all travel documents and remove items which could be incriminating from their homes and apartments.
Organizations working with at-risk Afghans in the country are advised to tell their people to delete all traces of contact with Westerners each morning and at night to safeguard communications. Phones and tablets are being actively searched during this clearing operation.
Pakistan intends to send more troops to the border in a show of force. Two helicopters will be dispatched to assist ground forces should more fighting take place.
WHAT IS GOING ON WITH PAKISTAN VISAS?
CONTEXT: Pakistan has tightened their process for issuing visas in Afghanistan. They claim to have reached the maximum amount of economic activity visas they can grant and have made it nearly impossible to acquire a multi-entry annual visa over the last two weeks. Medical visas and student visas continue to be issued, but it is difficult to qualify and applicants have been given extreme wait-time estimates recently.
So, what’s really going on? A couple of things…
Sources inside the government of Pakistan have reported that several Pakistani companies and small businesses have lobbied Pakistani authorities to restrict economic visas to Afghan businesspeople and companies. These Pakistani companies generally either already conduct cross-border trade with Afghanistan or want to expand into the market. They are hungry for the lucrative humanitarian aid transport contracts currently being parceled out by aid organizations.
A run on all types of visas by Afghans wishing to get out of the country has swelled the refugee population in Pakistan, and recent terrorist attacks are likely a concern for the government. Multiple entry visas are seen as dangerous opportunities for TTP and Baloch extremists to wreak more havoc in the country.
Visa ‘traders’ have multiplied, and they have gobbled up many of the visas through corrupt ties to the Pakistani Embassy and consulates in Afghanistan. These traders then sell the visas to refugees seeking to flee the Taliban at inflated prices. Pakistan may be trying to get these black market visa traders under control.
ANALYSIS: We feel the bottleneck will eventually pass and normal visa procedures will resume. However, if tensions on the border continue and more attacks on Pakistani troops are thought to be coming from Afghanistan, tighter restrictions may be imposed. At-risk Afghans and evacuation organizations should keep these factors in mind before paying for a visa.
Afghani to the Dollar: $1 – 91.59 AFN (as of 26 FEB 2022)
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