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Administration Paper on the Afghanistan Withdrawal

The Biden Administration released a paper (April 6) summarizing its views on the “key decisions and challenges surrounding the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.” Reporting suggests a more detailed classified assessment was sent to Congress.

Among the most significant points made in the publicly-released paper:

  • The President’s choices for how to execute a withdrawal were severely constrained by conditions created by the Trump Administration because of, among other things, the former President’s conditions negotiations with the Taliban that also did not include consultation with allies; his commitment to a date certain with the Taliban for the withdrawal of US troops; and his significant drawdown of troops without a corresponding plan for safely evacuating from the country.

  • Despite the US drawdown, the US believed that the Afghan’s Government’s military advantages would at least be able to hold back the Taliban during any final evacuation. A US intelligence community assessment in early 2021 was that Taliban advances would accelerate across large portions of Afghanistan after a complete U.S. military withdrawal and potentially lead to the Taliban’s capturing Kabul, but within a year or two.

  • The Administration’s planning for the evacuation accounted for all scenarios, but even with planning, intelligence reports close to the actual evacuation “continued to suggest that—even if the Taliban made gains in some Afghan provinces— the capital, Kabul, would be more difficult for the Taliban to take and the [Afghan military] would defend it.”

  • The Administration conducted “un-precedently extensive” outreach to Americans and Afghan partners about the risk of collapse, but decided not to “broadcast loudly and publicly about a potential worst-case scenario unfolding in order to avoid signaling a lack of confidence” on the Afghan military and government.

  • With respect to the attack at Abbey Gate on August 26 which killed 13 US service members and 170 Afghans, the Administration claims that the President was advised by senior military officials that continuing evacuations for 48 more hours presented “manageable risk to the force” and that the ”entire national security team, including senior military officials,” and the President accepted the recommendation to extend evacuation operations for this period. On the afternoon of August 25, the commanders decided to keep Abbey Gate open to facilitate the evacuation of U.K. forces and Afghan partners, and in the evening of August 26 a suicide bomber detonated an explosive outside of Abbey Gate.

  • The Administration says that the Afghan withdrawal has “freed up critical military, intelligence, and other resources to counter terrorist threats around the world, including in Syria, Iraq, Somalia, and Yemen,” including the elimination of ISIS leader Hajji Abdullah and a number of top ISIS leaders in Syria and Somalia through continued U.S. counterterrorism efforts. And, U.S. standing around the world is greater than it was before.

(posted: 4-7-23)


Afghan Bank Reserves Use

The State Department announced (September 14) its methodology for using an estimated $3.5 billion in Afghan bank reserves in a way that benefits the people of Afghanistan instead of the Taliban itself. An “Afghan Fund” will be established within the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) based in Switzerland. An external auditor will monitor and audit the Afghan Fund as required by Swiss law.

The State Department claims that through this Fund, the United States will work closely with international partners to facilitate use of these assets to improve the lives of the “ordinary people” of Afghanistan. While the Department claims the Taliban, who currently run the country, would not benefit from the Fund, the Department does say that disbursements could include keeping the country (and by extension the government) current on its debt payments to international financial institutions, which would preserve their eligibility for development assistance and “paying for critical imports” such as electricity.

(updated: 9-16-22)


DHS/IG Report on Afghan Vetting

The Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security released a report (September) on the vetting of Afghans after the U.S. evacuation in 2021.

The key finding of the report is that DHS/Customs and Border Protection (CBP) did not always have the right data to properly vet evacuees. Some information used to vet evacuees, such as name, date of birth, identification number, and travel document data, was inaccurate, incomplete, or missing. CBP ultimately admitted or paroled evacuees not “fully vetted” including “dozens” discovered later to have derogatory information. A DOD report released in February 2022 indicated at least 50 persons were admitted with derogatory information.

CBP attributed vetting problems to a variety of factors including screening time constraints, language barriers, Afghans not knowing their own personal data, and the lack of automated systems.

(updated: 9-16-22)


Afghanistan Withdrawal Report

The Minority of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee released (August 15th) to media outlets a draft report on the one-year anniversary of the U.S. withdrawal from the country. The report has not yet been published officially.

According to press reports, the draft report indicates:

  • 800 Americans have been evacuated from the country since the United States left the country.

  • There were just 36 State Department staff on the ground to process evacuees during the evacuation process.

  • Biden Administration evacuation plans were developed in the spring of 2021, and not updated to reflect updated information.

  • Operational meetings to plan the evacuation did not begin until June 2021, and the Administration did not secure bases for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) or counterterrorism operations in countries bordering Afghanistan that could have helped improve the evacuation process.

  • Just 25% of those evacuated during the evacuation process were women and girls.

  • While 600 Afghan security force personnel were evacuated, the report characterizes this as just a small part of trained units who served alongside American troops.

(updated: 8-16-22)


Earthquake - Humanitarian Assistance 

The United States announced (June 28th) that it will provide $55 million in humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan in response to its June 22nd earthquake.

The Administration says that this assistance will include shelter materials; pots for cooking; jerry cans to collect and store water; blankets; solar lamps; clothes, and other household items such as  hygiene supplies to prevent waterborne disease outbreak. It also says that funding "will also support other high need areas throughout the country."

(updated: 6-28-22)


TPS for Afghans

The Department of Homeland Security announced (March 16, 2022) Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for 18 months for Afghans currently in the United States as of March 15, 2022. The vast majority of Afghans in the United States without permanent immigration status include the nearly 73K Afghans evacuated from Afghanistan after the United States left the country in the summer of 2021. Such persons have humanitarian parole for two years, but will likely turn to TPS before the expiration of parole eligibility. An additional 2,000 other Afghans are in the United States legally (e.g., students) who might use TPS to remain.

Earlier in March (March 3, 2022), DHS announced (March 3, 2022) an 18-month TPS designation for Ukrainian nationals in the United States as of March 1, 2022. Other TPS designations currently in place include Burma (until November 25, 2022); El Salvador (until December 31, 2022); Haiti (until December 31, 2022); Honduras (until December 31, 2022); Nepal (until December 31, 2022); Nicaragua (until December 31, 2022); Somalia (until March 17, 2023); Sudan (until December 31, 2022); South Sudan (until May 2, 2022); Syria (until March 28, 2022); Venezuela (until September 9, 2022); Yemen (until March 3, 2023).

(updated: 3-16-22)


Domestic Processing & Resettlement of Afghan Evacuees

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced (February 19, 2022) that “all remaining Afghan evacuees” have departed Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, in New Jersey. This was the last of eight domestic Department of Defense facilities temporarily housing Afghan evacuees after the United States left Afghanistan in the wake of the Taliban’s takeover in August 2021. Of the 84,600 Afghan nationals, American citizens, and Lawful Permanent Residents that have arrived in the United States as part of Operation Allies Welcome (OAW), 76,000 Afghan nationals have so far been resettled around the United States.

A new single domestic processing and temporary housing facility for Afghans began operations in Loudoun County, Virginia, at the National Conference Center. There are at least 2,800 Afghans still in U.S. bases overseas who may be processed through this facility. CBS News recently reported (February 24, 2022) on U.S. resettlement locations to date.

(updated: 3-13-22)


Afghanistan Humanitarian Aid

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced January 11, 2022 that the United States will contribute $308 million. The announcement says the aid will "flow directly to the Afghan people" and will include aid such as "food and nutrition assistance; support for health care facilities and mobile health teams; winterization programs—including the provision of emergency cash grants, shelter kits, heaters, blankets, and warm clothing; and logistics and transportation." This action follows $64 million in U.S. humanitarian aid pledged in September and another $144 million pledged in October.

(updated: 2-12-22)


Connected Policies


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Protecting Afghanistan Assets for its People
Protecting Afghanistan Assets for its People

This is a Biden Administration Executive Order (EO) articulating Federal policy on frozen Afghanistan assets of Da Afghanistan Bank (DAB).

Status: this EO was issued on February 11, 2022.

Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees
Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees

This website of the United Nations provides a copy of the convention/protocol adopted by the international community on the treatment and protocol on refugees.

Status: the convention was adopted in 1951 and associated protocols in 1967.


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