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Daily Evacuation Brief | January 27, 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:
· More arrests and security operations in Mazar specifically targeting potential evacuees and non-Pashtuns.
· The UN Secretary General addressed the UN Security Council with representatives of the Norwegian government and called for action in the Afghanistan crisis.
· The Asian Development Bank approved over $400 million in financial assistance. Funds have been directed to UNICEF, the World Food Programme, and the Food and Agriculture Organization.
· A US-contracted flight with approximately 200 American citizens, U.S. green card holders, and SIV recipients on board successfully departed Kabul for Qatar on Wednesday. However, about 80 manifested American citizens whose Afghan visas had expired while awaiting a flight were stopped by the Taliban and prevented from leaving. It is not clear if these American citizens will be allowed to fly soon.
· The Taliban confirmed previous reporting on clashes in Mazar between NRF and the Al-Fatah Corps. The total number of NRF killed rose to 10.
NEXT 24 HOURS:
· Security operations are expected to continue in Mazar, and public demands will be made for at-risk Afghans hoping for evacuation to return to their home provinces. It is unknown if any punitive action will be taken for those who remain.
· Select units of Pashtun Taliban forces that had been ordered to Mazar are expected to depart for other locations of concern.
· Additional documentation requirements for international travel are expected to be announced, including in-country PCR testing for flights to many countries including Qatar.
Internal Security in Afghanistan
CONTEXT: The Taliban have dealt with multiple internal threats since taking power, which appear to be intensifying in scale and lethality. Although they have successfully put down challenges to their theocratic power structure, it has sapped manpower and equipment. Divisions are beginning to deepen, especially along ethnic lines, as evidenced by the mutiny in Faryab province earlier this month by ethnic Uzbek Taliban over the arrest of their Uzbek leader.
DISCUSSION: For ease of understanding, the internal threats can be classified into three general categories:
· CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE – protests, marches, vigils (example: gender equality march)
· PERSISTENT – small scale actions, terrorism, organized crime (example: ISIS-K car bombings)
· EMERGING – organized resistance on a larger scale, possibly supported by external actors, actual clashes and gun battles (example: recent fighting in Mazar between Al-Fatah and purported NRF)
Of these categories, the first two are the easiest to deal with. They are all likely to continue over the coming year. Although ISIS-K has primarily targeted civilians, they are sure to hit infrastructure and high-value targets such as the Taliban leadership in the future. As these threats have typically been dispersed, the Taliban have been able to react to them quickly and put out the fires. The third category poses the most significant threat.
ANALYSIS: Based on the recent events in Faryab, it is clear a chasm is widening between ethnic groups. Factions like the NRF are growing bolder and are reported to be stockpiling weapons in preparation for more ambitious operations. Historically, short-term alliances have formed between ethnic minorities regardless of political inclinations. Should these groups continue to be marginalized in the “new” Afghanistan, the Taliban may face an alliance of convenience between several groups and will be hard pressed to maintain control of population centers, supply lines, and critical infrastructure. ISIS-K and civil society may seize upon potential weaknesses to cause disruptions of their own.
CONCLUSION: The Taliban have only limited control over the population and territorial integrity of the country. Factionalism will result in alliances being formed. Coordinated attacks will confound the Taliban and strain personnel, equipment, and resources to the point they may fall. The year ahead does not look promising for their regime.
Human Right Watch Report on LGBT Community in Afghanistan
CONTEXT: Human Rights Watch released a report today entitled “‘Even If You Go to the Skies, We’ll Find You’: LGBT People in Afghanistan After the Taliban Takeover”. The report documented a marked escalation in violence against members of the LGBTQ+ community in Afghanistan and made recommendations for relevant parties on how to protect the LGBTQ+ community. The report also discusses the particular difficulty of evacuating LGBTQ+ individuals and their continued endangerment once evacuated, given that most Afghan refugees are currently located in neighboring countries such as Iran, Pakistan, and Central Asian states where same-sex relations are also criminalized.
To be clear, same-sex relations were socially unacceptable and criminalized in Afghanistan before the Taliban took power, even being punishable by death. LGBTQ+ Afghans were regularly subject to social ostracization, violent attacks, sexual assault, or honor killings. Following the Taliban takeover, the situation worsened dramatically. Family members, neighbors, friends, and romantic partners are now more proactively reporting LGBTQ+ people either due to their support for the Taliban regime or as an attempt at self-preservation.
ANALYSIS: It is unfortunately unsurprising that violence toward the LGBTQ+ community has increased under Taliban rule given the widespread societal condemnation of same-sex relations and untraditional gender identities, alongside the increasingly draconian enforcement of a moral code by the Taliban.
As a result, the solutions suggested by Human Rights Watch regrettably will be ineffective and could even cause more harm. The international community should be relentless in its pursuit of human rights, including for LGBTQ+ people, but it is unfortunately unlikely much progress will be made on this issue. Firstly, there is virtually no chance that the Taliban will recognize the rights of LGBTQ+ people under international law; even if they did formally recognize these rights, their lack of control over their own officials and social mores would mean a de facto continuation of violence and discrimination against this community. On the flip side, it is highly unlikely the international community would make legal protections of LGBTQ+ community a requirement for aid distribution. LGBTQ+ issues are not frequently seriously addressed by the international community, and it is even less likely to be a priority in the context of an ongoing humanitarian crisis. As a result, sweeping recommendations for the Taliban to recognize international law and for the international community to use their diplomatic leverage are slightly disconnected from reality.
Furthermore, advising humanitarian groups delivering aid and UNHCR to specifically target LGBTQ+ people for assistance could further endanger them, given that it means compiling information that could be leaked and increasing the risk of LGBTQ+ individuals being found with incriminating material on their devices. From the current intense questioning of potential evacuees in Mazar-i-Sharif to the numerous data leaks that have exposed vulnerable Afghans registered to evacuate, it is clear that compiling information on the LGBTQ+ community could easily lead to more efficient targeting by hostile forces. However, governments receiving refugees should absolutely prioritize members of the LGBTQ+ community—but that information, like all evacuees’ information, needs to be fiercely protected.
LGBTQ+ individuals are advised to maintain a low profile in order to avoid targeting and do what they can to separate themselves from individuals who they suspect may report on them. Furthermore, organizations who wish to evacuate LGBTQ+ people should add additional layers of security and may want to reach out to organizations who specialize in partnering with this community.
Afghani to the Dollar: .0097 – 1 (as of 27 JAN 2022)
During and exclusive interview with Pajwhok Afghan News, Taliban Spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said, “One thing we should know is that nation-wide security is not established and we have not received all the resources to ensure overall security. There may be some enemy forces that may have nefarious designs but we could not name any side.”…
Afghanistan: Taliban Targets LGBT Afghans (HRW) | Originally published by Human Rights Watch, reprinted in Albawaba News
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Afghans and people who do not conform to rigid gender norms in Afghanistan have faced an increasingly desperate situation and grave threats to their safety and lives under the Taliban, Human Rights Watch and OutRight Action International said in a report released today…
Afghan Journalists ‘Very Afraid’ Amid Rising Violence | Voice of America | By Roshan Noorzai
Violence, arrests and unclear media laws are adding to a difficult environment for Afghan journalists…
Iran and Russia play double-game in Afghanistan, protecting their influence | TRT World | By Rupert Stone
It was recently Tehran's turn to host peace talks between Afghanistan’s political leaders following unsuccessful efforts in Doha, Moscow and Islamabad to resolve decades of internal conflict…
NEW DELHI: PM Narendra Modi will host the first ever India-Central Asia summit virtually on Thursday with focus on improving trade and connectivity with the resource-rich region while also looking to address the security situation in Afghanistan…
International News Relating to Afghanistan
Afghanistan and the World: The National, Regional, and Global Impact | Center for Strategic and International Studies
The Emeritus Chair in Strategy at CSIS is issuing a summary overview on the impact of the U.S. and Afghan central government defeat by the Taliban, on the image of the U.S. in the world, on Afghanistan’s potential global and regional impacts, and on Afghanistan’s probable impact on regional and global extremism and terrorism. It also addresses the Taliban’s probable impact on Afghanistan and some of the key lessons the U.S. and its strategic partners should learn from the war…
UN Calls for Afghan Reconciliation Dialogue | TOLO News | By Mujeeb R. Awrang
The UN Security Council convened a special conference on the Afghan situation on Wednesday…
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