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“Almost 80 million people worldwide have been forced to flee their homes, the majority of whom are children. In fact, an average of one person is forcibly displaced every 2 seconds — but not all displacements are the same.” Concern, 2021

“The sky has stopped raining on us, the earth has stopped growing grass for us, and eventually the government has also stopped helping us,” Abdul Baqi, 67 Afghan citizen

“We will have to shut our border to safeguard our national interest. Pakistan has sheltered 3.5 million Afghan refugees over the years as the Taliban ravaged Afghanistan but we can’t take more,”  Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi

This week I would like to take another look at the broiling tsunami that is stirring in the Central Asian nation of Afghanistan. Forty years of war, recurrent natural disasters, chronic poverty, and the COVID-19 pandemic continue to be a deadly combination for people in Afghanistan.  With the impending withdrawal of the last troops from the United States and its allies, tensions are high as many recall with vivid detail the excesses of the last Taliban regime, the devastating effects it had on the people of Afghanistan, and the destruction it wrought on all of Central Asia and the world… aka 9/11.

I want to take a two-part look at the situation in Afghanistan as it is unfolding and to take a more granular look at what exactly is happening concerning the impact of the US withdrawal and what the Afghan population can expect next.

In part one, I want to solidify our understanding of what a refugee is vs an asylum-seeker vs an internally displaced person (IDP). I also want to review the current situation in Afghanistan and expand on the current social and political landscapes.  

In part two, I want to unfold for you what history tells us about the Taliban, because, in spite of their assurances to the Afghan President and the US government, they will most likely return to their true colors and enforce what can only be described as a medieval form of Islam— highly restrictive, abusive, violent, oppressive, and deeply entrenched in a very narrow interpretation of the Quran.

I can assure you of one thing. As you will soon see, there is much more than meets the eye in this entire affair and its inevitable unraveling will leave a horrific humanitarian crisis that will potentially cost the lives of millions of men and women.

Review.

Let me start off by once again reminding us of some very specific terminology that is often confused in speaking about mobile people. Talking about this situation, not only in Afghanistan but also across the whole world, will be very confusing if you do not understand the meaning of the words being used.

What is the difference between a refugee, asylum seeker, and IDP?

Refugee is the classification for someone who is forced to flee their country of origin due to conflict, violence, or persecution. They are unwilling or unable to return based on a demonstrable threat due to their race, religion, political stance, or social status. 

Asylum-seeker is the classification for someone who is seeking international protection from danger in their country of origin, but whose claim for refugee status hasn’t been finally decided. Every refugee begins as an asylum-seeker, but not every asylum-seeker will be granted refugee status. 

Internally displaced person (IDP) is the classification for someone who is seeking refuge somewhere else within their own country as a result of conflict, epidemic, or natural disaster. Their hope is to return home as soon as it is safe to do so. 

Realities in Afghanistan for Refugees or Potential Refugees

  1. There is an escalating conflict, a serious drought, and high levels of human-rights abuse that are leaving people in many parts of Afghanistan with no option but to flee their homes. 
  2. Many families are opting to send their sons to Pakistan, Iran, or Europe in the hope of securing some sort of income that can be repatriated back into Afghanistan. 
  3. Young men are also leaving for fear of being forcibly recruited by either the Taliban or the opposition. 
  4. Intellectuals and ethnic minorities also fear persecution due to the rise of the Taliban.
  5. More than 12 million Afghans – one-third of the population – now face ‘crisis’ or ’emergency’ levels of food insecurity. This situation places Afghanistan among the top three countries with the highest number of people in emergency food insecurity globally. The number of people affected already exceeds levels seen during the drought in 2018. 
  6. Rural areas have become increasingly insecure. As a result, many returning Afghans have begun migrating to towns and cities, causing rapid urbanization that is contributing to rising poverty, unemployment, and criminality. Kabul’s population has tripled in just seven years. Since young, displaced, and unemployed men are particularly vulnerable to recruitment to the insurgency, the needs of a fast-growing poor and largely marginalized population must be urgently addressed. Moreover, as Afghans attempt to resettle in their home provinces or migrate to the country’s more secure and economically productive zones, land disputes risk sparking deep-rooted tribal, ethnic, or sectarian violence. 
  7. Remittances have become essential to the Afghan economy, and households that are able to provide for themselves from family members living abroad are a blessing for a state struggling to ensure security and provide basic services.
  8. Schooling for girls is already being forbidden by decree in Taliban-controlled areas.

Another reality…The Constitution of Afghanistan came into force on 4 January 2004. It recognizes Afghanistan as an Islamic Republic and as an “independent, unitary and indivisible state.” The Constitution further gives official recognition to the following ethnic groups: Pashtun, Tajik, Hazara, Uzbek, Turkman, Baluch, Pachaie, Nuristani, Aymaq, Arab, Qirghiz, Qizilbash, Gujur, Brahwui and other tribes. Pashto and Dari are recognized as the official languages, but grants ‘third official language’ status to areas where Uzbeki, Turkmeni, Pachaie, Nuristani, Baluchi, or Pamiri language speakers are in the majority. All these languages are to be effectively adopted and developed by the government, with publications and broadcasting proposed to be in all the spoken languages of Afghanistan. The educational curriculum, however, is envisaged as being unitary and based on Islam and ‘national culture’. Article 22 contains a basic non-discrimination clause, but it does not specify any conditions on which discrimination may be based.

Who lives in Afghanistan? Afghanistan’s political life has always been dominated by ethnic Pashtuns, who are thought to make up approximately 40% of the population. Pashtuns are overwhelmingly Sunni Muslims.  Current statistical data on the sensitive subject of ethnicity in Afghanistan are not available, and ethnicity data from small samples of respondents to opinion polls are not a reliable alternative.

It is important to note that more than 88% of Afghan refugees are hosted in neighboring Pakistan and Iran. For several years tensions between the Iranians and Pakistanis have increased due to many Afghans taking jobs from Pakistanis and Iranians. This will set the stage to discuss what the potential scenarios are for the future of the Afghan people. 

Why.

With the departure of US forces and its allies a tectonic shift is about to take place in Afghanistan. The Taliban, who are primarily Pashtun, have been marginalized by the minority alliance in the North and its allies (the US military et al.). As a result, the Taliban believes themselves to be dismissed and oppressed by what they perceive as an occupying force for almost 2 decades. They are not happy and are already  dispensing a narrative that portrays themselves as victors over the most powerful military power in the world. They have every intention of capitalizing on that narrative and any mystique it may bear.

From all indications, with the US military not even fully out of the country yet, the Taliban are infiltrating many of the outlying provinces, defeating the local soldiers, and establishing their own form of local government, based on shari’ah. They are setting the stage for imposing their brand of vengeful and violent Islamic thought. 

Action.

We need to all pay attention in the coming months. If the past is the prologue, the world is about to witness a very discouraging series of events that will cause a lot of people to rethink the goals and objectives of Western participation over the past 20 years of involvement in Afghanistan.

What is about to unfold might serve as a prodrome for other forms of radical Islamist jihadism and Afghanistan, once again, could become a haven for global terrorist mayhem.

The follow-up.

IG Finds Jailed Terrorists Preaching in Prison Chapels… https://www.investigativeproject.org/8932/ig-finds-jailed-terrorists-preaching-in-prison

Pandemic Crisis Drives Cubans to Rare, Risky Protest… https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/12/04/coronavirus-pandemic-cuba-protests-free-expression-denis-solis-gonzalez/

The feed-back.

For your comments or questions about any of our digests please feel free to write to me at:  david@morethanmeets.co

Resources.

https://www.justsecurity.org/75859/bidens-decision-to-pull-troops-from-afghanistan-risks-a-major-refugee-crisis/

https://www.unhcr.org/en-us/news/press/2021/5/60b4993d4/renewed-commitment-needed-support-displaced-afghans-hosts.html

https://publications.iom.int/system/files/pdf/migration_policy_practice_journal_27.pdf

https://reliefweb.int/report/afghanistan/worlds-5-biggest-refugee-crises

https://www.nrc.no/resources/briefing-notes/running-out-of-time/

https://www.internal-displacement.org/countries/afghanistan

https://watson.brown.edu/costsofwar/costs/human/refugees

https://www.giz.de/en/ourservices/55909.html

https://gandhara.rferl.org/a/for-displaced-afghans-hardship-increases-during-pandemic/30808845.html

https://www.usip.org/sites/default/files/2020-01/pw_155-displacement_and_the_vulnerability_to_mobilize_for_violence_evidence_from_afghanistan.pdf

https://www.justice.gov/eoir/page/file/1381936/download

https://www.bpb.de/gesellschaft/migration/laenderprofile/284416/four-decades-of-afghan-displacement

https://fas.org/sgp/crs/row/RL33851.pdf

https://www.fmreview.org/sites/fmr/files/FMRdownloads/en/afghanistan/FMR46listing.pdf

https://www.rescue.org/country/afghanistan

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/06/displacement-numbers-world-refugee-day/

https://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/afghanistan-displacement-challenges-country-move

https://global.oup.com/academic/category/social-sciences/sociology/forced-migration/?cc=us&lang=en&

https://www.refugeesinternational.org/reports/2021/6/14/afghanistan-is-facing-a-humanitarian-crisis-the-us-must-help

https://data2.unhcr.org/en/situations/afghanistan

https://eurasianet.org/uzbekistan-bracing-for-possible-afghan-refugee-crisis

https://www.worldvision.org/refugees-news-stories/forced-to-flee-top-countries-refugees-coming-from

https://www.crisisgroup.org/asia/south-asia/afghanistan/afghanistan-what-now-refugees

https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2021/country-chapters/afghanistan

https://www.nrc.no/news/2021/june/severe-drought-threatens-three-million-afghans/

https://asiatimes.com/2021/07/taliban-fuelled-refugee-crisis-has-already-begun/

https://www.humanitarianresponse.info/en/operations/afghanistan

https://www.concern.net/news/what-worlds-largest-refugee-crisis-2021

https://odihpn.org/magazine/refugees-from-afghanistan-protection-and-the-role-of-civil-society/

https://afghanistan.iom.int

https://www.cia.gov/the-world-factbook/field/ethnic-groups/

https://www.hrw.org/report/2017/10/17/i-wont-be-doctor-and-one-day-youll-be-sick/girls-access-education-afghanistan

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