Discover more from The Afghan Digest
Daily Evacuation Brief | January 26, 2022
Daily news about Afghanistan and the surrounding region, powered by Operation Snow Leopard
Welcome to the Daily Evacuation Brief. For more in-depth intelligence analysis and crisis research, please subscribe to our members-only journal, which comes out twice a week: Whispers & Anatomy of a Crisis.
LAST 24 HOURS:
Previous reporting on the situation in Mazar proved to be accurate. Pashtun Taliban forces have arrested people and conducted searches of homes and hostels throughout the city. There has been no reporting of additional people being arrested as of publication.
A scheduled evacuation operation was interrupted and will now have to be rescheduled.
Talks in Norway concluded with bilateral discussions between Norway and the Taliban. The focus of the discussions was on proposed humanitarian aid.
NEXT 24 HOURS:
Additional searches in and around Mazar are expected to take place. The Taliban were supplied with a list of addresses and names of people awaiting evacuation in Mazar. They are expected to visit those locations to question evacuees.
There will be several changes in leadership made in the city. These purges are expected to affect the civil administration at the airport, KAM Air’s local staff, and possibly some of the Mazar Taliban security forces who previously commanded the city.
A meeting of representatives of the nations who attended the Norway summit is expected to take place in Brussels. This will be the first of several meetings to discuss the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan. Likewise, the United Nations Security Council will be briefed by the UN Secretary General and the Norwegian government on progress made during the talks.
Utilities and Fuel
CONTEXT: Over the past 72 hours there have been power disruptions throughout Central Asia. Afghanistan imports 80% of its electricity from surrounding countries, and the outage has left many in Kabul and elsewhere without power. The Taliban worked out a hasty arrangement to connect to Turkmenistan’s supply, but there are still an estimated 2 million in the country without power and there has been no word on if or when it will be restored. Further complicating matters, fuel imports have slowly dropped off over the past three months. The Taliban successfully negotiated an agreement with Iran to allow for the transport of fuel into the country, but it is unclear how much they will be importing. Adding these two problems to widespread food shortages and an economic meltdown could spell disaster for the current regime.
DISCUSSION: Fragile states often exhibit shared symptoms prior to collapse. The surest way to widespread civil disobedience is through a lack of food and basic necessities. The Taliban have managed to stave off large-scale demonstrations through the use of force and by applying short term solutions to the myriad problems that continue to arise each day. What is not clear is how they are paying for all of it. Initial reports in the aftermath of the takeover suggested Tajikistan and other regional nations would continue to provide electricity to Afghanistan and would not require payment. Although not publicly stated, it was believed this would not go on indefinitely. Pakistan had extended credit for fuel shipments and even donated some as a gesture of goodwill. As relations with neighbors sour and bills go unpaid, it is entirely possible the Taliban will find themselves cut off from traditional supply lines.
ANALYSIS: While food, medicine, and fuel are problems that can be solved through the delivery of humanitarian aid, electricity poses a much more significant problem. As the US military discovered in the days following the fall of Baghdad, restoring power to the citizens was a top priority, yet it took years and hundreds of millions of dollars to provide even a moderate supply to the general population. If Afghanistan is cut off from access to power imports due to a failure to pay bills, hostile relations with a neighbor, or sustained terror attacks on infrastructure, the potential for widespread uprisings will be significant. Depending on the severity of the shortages it could even cause cross-border confrontations. Analysts agree that Afghanistan is in a precarious situation. The economy, food security, trade, ethnic divisions, and political system sit on a knife’s edge, and it is unlikely the government could weather a prolonged disruption to the national grid. Observers would be wise to monitor this sector closely.
Women and the Taliban
CONTEXT: More details emerged from discussions in Oslo, in particular on the meeting between Taliban leaders and women’s rights activists. Activists who participated said the Taliban listened actively and were “very cordial”, but no commitments were made, except to investigate the disappearance of female protestors. It was clear that although representative governance and women’s rights are key issues to Western powers, aid is not expected to be conditioned on these issues. Leaders from many countries, including Norway’s foreign minister, have said that the political situation cannot interfere with the urgent humanitarian assistance that is needed in order to alleviate the ongoing humanitarian crisis.
ANALYSIS: Interested parties should keep a sharp eye on Taliban investigations into the protestors’ disappearance, women’s integration back into schools and universities over the coming weeks, further limitations on women’s mobility (i.e. taxi restrictions), behavior toward female aid workers in the country, and other key indicators that the Taliban are committed to progress on women’s issues. Even though they have made guarded statements indicating their commitment, action is still forthcoming. Although emergency aid will likely continue to be given unconditionally, global leaders have been clear there cannot be a “blank check” for the Taliban. As the humanitarian situation becomes less dire, the Taliban will have to cooperate with the international community more or risk losing foreign assistance.
Afghani to the Dollar: .0096 – 1 (as of 26 JAN 2022)
Taliban detain dozens trying to 'illegally' leave Afghanistan by air | By The New Arab Staff & Agencies
Dozens of people were stopped from "illegally" leaving Afghanistan by air on Monday, a top Taliban official said, and several women among them are being detained until they are collected by male relatives…
Cash-Strapped Taliban Uses Foreign Aid Intended For Starving Afghans To Pay State Employees | Radio Free Europe | By Ron Synovitz
Like millions of other impoverished Afghans, day laborer Omaruddin and his family are facing starvation as the country’s economic crisis deepens under Taliban rule…
Taliban Redux, Cleaned-Up Image Can't Mask Their Cruel Reality | Worldcrunch | By Atal Ahmadzai and Faten Ghosn
Twenty years later the Islamist group is back in power in Afghanistan, but trying this time to win international support. Now that several months have passed, experts on the ground can offer a clear assessment if the group has genuinely transformed on such issues as women's rights and free speech…
Afghanistan connects Turkmenistan electricity after blackout in three central Asian countries | Khaama Press | By Najibullah Lalzoy
Afghanistan’s electricity body-Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat (DABS)- said that the Afghan capital Kabul and some provinces also lost their importing electricity after a blackout in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan…
Taliban seeks to expand cooperation with Iran: minster | By Mehr News Agency
Seyyed Hasan Mortazavi, Iran's deputy ambassador to Afghanistan on Tuesday met with the Taliban's Minister of Commerce and Industry Nooruddin Azizi in Kabul on Tuesday…
Officials in the Islamic Republic of Iran say the government has issued a permit to transport gas and oil through its territory to Afghanistan….
International News Relating to Afghanistan
Women Submit Demands to Kabul Delegates, Intl Envoys | TOLOnews | By Madina Morwat
On the second day of the Oslo meetings, Afghan women’s rights activists submitted a paper that includes Afghan women’s demands to the Islamic Emirate’s delegation and representatives of countries that attended the meeting…
‘This Taliban Government is Going to Be Temporary’: Oscar Shortlisted Filmmakers on Documenting Life in Afghanistan | Variety | By Naman Ramachandran
Elizabeth Mirzaei and Gulistan Mirzaei’s documentary short “Three Songs for Benazir” is about a rare love story that dares to find hope beyond war…
Before you go:
All our funds go toward caseworkers supporting evacuations, the evacuations themselves, and/or operational costs to keep this mission going.
Check out our other content:
Whispers: The best open source intelligence and analysis on Afghanistan. (weekly- members only)
Anatomy of a Crisis: Pragmatic thought leadership on disaster resilience and crisis management from a variety of experts. (weekly- members only)
Afghan Voices: Powerful Afghan voices making a difference in Afghanistan and around the world. (biweekly- all subscribers)
Changemakers: Changemakers committed to evacuation and resettlement efforts. (biweekly- all subscribers)
We won’t forget our allies.
We believe in sharing many opinions and looking from many different perspectives. This means we do not necessarily agree with everything shared in the news or contributor articles, but we believe it’s important to treat other perspectives with respect and to consider their point of view.