Discover more from The Afghan Digest
Daily Evacuation Brief | January 31, 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:
· Several more houses in Mazar were raided, and some people were beaten by the Taliban as they continue operations designed to ferret out at-risk Afghans who are awaiting evacuation.
· A second day of talks between Pakistan and the Taliban took place in Kabul.
· The National Resistance Front released the names of the eight fighters who were killed in a clash that took place late this month in northern Afghanistan. They also claimed to have killed thirty-one Taliban in the encounter.
NEXT 24 HOURS:
· Several thousand university students are expected to return to school as public universities in warmer climates reopen this Wednesday, February 2nd, and universities in colder climates, including Kabul, reopen on February 26th. Despite promises to allow women back into the classroom, Minister of Higher Education Abdul Baqi Haqqani avoided the subject in his proclamation.
· More searches are expected in Mazar. At-risk evacuees are encouraged to continue to maintain a low profile and have a good cover story on hand in the event the Taliban ask questions.
ISSUE 1: Potential Regional Conflict, Blackouts, and Airspace
· This past weekTajikistan and Kyrgyzstan rekindled border disputes akin to those in April 2021. Unconfirmed reports of casualties on both sides have been reported near Chorkuh. Shelling and gunfire took place with both sides accusing the other of being the instigator. Russia, who maintains close diplomatic and security ties with both countries, has called for calm, but the standoff remains tense under a hasty ceasefire agreement. Both sides accused the other of utilizing drones in their respective airspace.
· A second power outage affected the region, and initial reports point to an accident at the Syrdarya thermal power plant in Uzbekistan. The outage knocked out power in portions of three countries (Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan). The international airport in Bishkek, Uzbekistan lost all power, as did other critical infrastructure nodes across the region. Internet and cellular communications have also been disrupted. It is not clear when power will be fully restored.
Map: Central Asia Power Disruptions as of 1400UTC 30 JAN 2021
These incidents serve as a reminder of how easily regional events can disrupt the ongoing evacuation operation in Afghanistan. Either incident could result in the closure of national airspace, and, depending on the extent and duration of the power disruptions, could seriously hamper civilian aviation operations as landing clearances could be refused or flights diverted to alternate locations. The multiple claims of UAVs being employed in the Tajik/Kyrgyz border dispute could force a closure, and if the situation reignites the adversaries may attempt to fire surface to air missiles. If in the chaos an errant missile were to hit a civilian airliner, it is probable that civil aviation in the region would be seriously disrupted.
· Tajik/Kyrgyz Issue: It seems calmer heads have prevailed in the Tajik/Kyrgyz situation for the time being. However, the clashes occurred during the dead of winter and suggests future conflict may be in the offing.
· The continued mass power disruptions represent a serious problem. Such infrastructure failures can have a ripple effect on sectors necessary to support aviation operations (fuel, radar, communications, et al). The problem is compounded by the fact the outages straddle such a massive area. It is currently unknown how long it will take to repair the facility and whether there is a bigger problem than the one generation plant.
Both situations merit attention in the coming weeks, and organizations involved in the evacuation effort would be wise to consider contingency plans.
ISSUE 2: Reopening of Public Universities and Women’s Integration
As public universities reopen in February, Afghans and the international community alike will be closely watching to see if women will be allowed to attend. Although Higher Education Minister Haqqani did not address women’s status in yesterday’s announcement, he has previously stated that women would be allowed to reintegrate so long as they observe hijab and Sharia-compliant gender segregation is in place.
The Taliban have insisted that those saying women and girls will be banned are spreading propaganda and that the delays in reopening are due to budget constraints and not having a proper Islamic environment in place yet.
Notably, women were allowed to return to about 150 private universities under strict gender segregation in September 2021. However, women’s attendance has often been hindered due to de facto restrictions such as restricted mobility or a shortage of female professors and consequently limited class options.
Given widespread demands from potential donors and impending decisions on aid, it is no coincidence that the Taliban have chosen this moment to announce that universities will reopen. However, only time will tell if women will be permitted to rejoin or remain long-term.
If the Taliban choose to exclude women from universities either now or later, the consequences could be dramatic. Protests could proliferate, and international aid could be jeopardized. Furthermore, they would continue to cripple their own economy by limiting their development of human capital among half the population.
One fear, if women are reintegrated, is an increase in ISIS-K attacks targeting education institutions like the one at Kabul University in November 2020.
Interested parties should also closely track girls’ reintegration to secondary schools after Nowruz on March 21st as it is another key indicator of the Taliban’s commitment to keeping girls in school.
Afghani to the Dollar: $1 – 101.20AFN (as of 31 JAN 2022)
KABUL, Jan 30 (Reuters) - Afghanistan's public universities, closed since the Taliban seized power in August, will reopen in February, the Taliban acting higher education minister said on Sunday, without specifying whether female students would be able to return…
Many of the applicants for Pakistan visas are Afghans seeking medical treatment. The applicants for the Pakistan visas said that although they filled out the forms months ago, their visas have yet to be issued.…
The National Resistance Force (NRF) denounced the Taliban for war crimes and atrocities it committed against Afghan citizens. It also lambasted the international community for being a mute spectator of the Taliban’s brutal acts…
Two Tajik civilians have been killed during overnight clashes at Tajikistan’s contested border with Kyrgyzstan, where a ceasefire has since been established…
International News Relating to Afghanistan
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Sunday called for the release of U.S. Navy veteran Mark Frerichs, who was taken hostage in Afghanistan nearly two years ago…
White House working to expedite Afghan resettlement as at least 12,500 remain on military bases | CNBC | By Kayla Tausche
Nearly six months after the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, thousands of refugees who fled the country still reside on American military bases as they await visas to find permanent residences and work…
A report from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to the UN Security Council reportedly accuses the fundamentalist Taliban of dozens of revenge killings since the Taliban swept into control of much of Afghanistan in August…
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.