Sarah Wudoo: Not enough vetting took place on refugees in Afghanistan

As Barack Obama’s national security adviser, Susan Rice, warned of the hazards of the US administration turning over Kabul to Donald Trump, or to a “broader strategy” led by him, Sarah Wudoo with the Center for International Policy in Washington today released a report revealing that almost no vetting took place when 57,000 civilians were temporarily removed from Afghanistan over the past four years.

The reporters Catherine Lucey and Chris Mazza interviewed 1,081 of those displaced by the US operations in western Afghanistan, and assessed the extent to which they were vetted by the federal government.

As a result, Lucey, Mazza and Mazza’s team conclude, the US has never attempted to determine what it would be like to live without their homes, for instance, or to integrate Afghan families into newly displaced communities. In one situation, a family of 6 went so far as to kill a dog belonging to a family living next door, thinking that it was animal belonging to the displaced. “International security assistance authorities have been experiencing a problem with the sort of honest-to-goodness registration that we expect of other direct providers of aid,” said Lucey.

Lucey estimates that almost 13,000 Afghan families were assessed as eligible for resettlement, just 10% of them being interviewed by the agencies serving them in person. The rest were either found to have families already living in the US, were found to meet some of the criteria for relocation, or, in one case, were found to be too low on the list of verified identity documents.

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The US resettlement of refugees was originally intended to accelerate the destruction of ISIS and al-Qaida, and to prevent Afghanistan from getting turned into a Taliban stronghold. But one consequence was that it was perceived to promote a vision of a wayward, civilised future for Afghanistan instead of – or in spite of – actually fighting the war on terror.

In the last year, said Lucey, the Trump administration decided to abandon that aim altogether, seeking to “subvert even the most meager process by which we might actually take a principled position on the war on terror”. The purpose of the negotiations to oust the Islamic State from its citadel in the city of Qaim has now been and gone. Trump is now planning a new strategy for what is left of Afghanistan, presumably one based on more robust military operations.

The US plans to build a heavy investment in the civil institutions of Afghanistan, including its national border police force, the military, the local government and its local courts. But it is questionable how effective any of these teams would be without help from displaced families who, for example, turned up with food and water in aid deliveries. “If you’re going to call for people to rebuild a society, you need to ensure that the structures that would support those reconstruction are in place when people do get home,” said Lucey.

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