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In Afghanistan, ‘Almost Everyone Is in Danger Now’

Members of the Taliban patrol a street in Kabul, Afghanistan, October 3, 2021. (Jorge Silva/Reuters)

On the menu today: a busy start to the week. You have to look to local news to find coverage of of the ongoing disaster in Afghanistan, as a local NBC affiliate reports on 43 Connecticut residents still trapped in that country, and a former U.S. military translator in Dallas tells Senator Jon Cornyn of Texas that for those left behind, “Almost everybody is in danger now”; the Chinese military creates a “Sputnik moment” with a new hypersonic missile; and a few thoughts on the idea of conservatives forming a third party; and my other podcast co-host sees a strong contrast between most working mothers and the Secretary of Transportation’s lengthy paternity leave.

National Media Ignore the Afghanistan Crisis

The sort of headline that shouldn’t just be local news: “43 Connecticut Residents Still Stuck In Afghanistan.”

Those knee-jerk Biden critics over at . . . er, the Connecticut affiliate of NBC News report:

More than three dozen Connecticut residents are still trying to leave Afghanistan after American forces withdrew. Elected officials, relief organizations, and veterans groups are trying to get them out.

“Their school teachers are calling me asking me where are the students. The 10-year-old student from New Haven who is stuck in Kabul is sending me voicemail messages,” Chris George, executive director of IRIS said.

George is talking about some of the 43 Connecticut residents stuck in Afghanistan. “They’re running out of food and yes, they are running out of hope,” George said.

Meanwhile, down in Dallas:

Najeeb Aminyar, a U.S. military interpreter who arrived in 2014, told Cornyn at a Dallas roundtable on Afghanistan at the Northwest Community Center in Vickery Meadow that many who were evacuated in the chaotic fall of the Afghanistan government last August didn’t hold the coveted Special Immigrant Visas.

And many Afghans who do hold the SIVs needed to immigrate to the U.S. remain in Afghanistan.

“The Taliban has taken over,” Aminyar said at the roundtable session with Texas’ senior senator, two other Afghans and refugee assistance leaders. “They are a terrorist group. Almost everybody is in danger now.”

The trio of Afghans who spoke at the event all came to the U.S. on SIVs, which provide them with a path to legal permanent residency similar to the one refugees normally receive. But getting the Afghans on such visas resettled in U.S. cities has been slow.

Cornyn, the Republican senator, asked, “Do you think the Taliban will allow the evacuation of SIVs?”

“It has been a challenge,” said Aminyar, now a second-year law student at Texas A&M in Fort Worth and a U.S. citizen.

Also, the remaining Christians in Afghanistan are bracing for the worst:

An estimated 8,000 to 10,000 Christians remain in Afghanistan, a country of about 38 million people that ranks second only to North Korea in its persecution of Christians, according to the 2021 World Watch List from persecution watchdog Open Doors.

“The ICC has definitely been in contact and is still in contact with Afghan Christians in the country,”[ International Christian Concern Southeast Asia manager] William Stark said. “There’s certainly a tremendous amount of fear and concern for their own personal safety and increased persecution under the Taliban rule. That obviously comes from direct persecution from the Taliban itself . . . but there’s also a fear of indirect persecution or persecution being increased from just sort of general fundamentalists in the country.”

Back in Washington there’s some technically good news, as the U.S. State Department announced its plans to resume regular evacuation flights from Afghanistan before the end of the year. By federal-government standards, I suppose that is “speedy”:

The State Department has yet to schedule a date to resume evacuation flights because it is still working through arrangements with neighboring countries, the State Department official said. Among the issues being worked out are documentation for travelers, permission to fly over other countries and procedures with the Taliban and foreign governments.

“As soon as we have the right combination of documentation and logistics, we will get going again,” the senior State Department official said in an interview.

I would like to remind you that U.S. military forces left Afghanistan 49 days ago.

Finally, note the second item in Politico’s National Security Daily newsletter from Friday, and ask yourself why this isn’t considered as big a deal as the first item, which was the Biden administration being slow to name nominees to be inspectors general:

While a lot has been happening inside the Beltway, there’s still ongoing fallout over the Biden’s administration’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan. A group of volunteer-run organizations now say they are at their wits’ end with the lack of communication, coordination and funding from the U.S. government — specifically faulting the State Department — as they seek to get Americans and U.S. allies out safely.

Americans are still trying to get out: They say there are dozens of American citizens still trying to escape from Afghanistan. “One of the most recent press conferences by the State Department highlighted that there are maybe a couple dozen Americans left, and they don’t want to leave. And the irony is, I literally sent that morning a manifest to the State Department that showed that we had 30 Americans on our flights alone who were desperate to get out of the country with their family,” said Task Force Argo’s Zach Nunn.

What If Chinese Rockets Can Do Things That American Missiles Cannot?

If the United States enjoys the geopolitical advantages of the most advanced military in the world . . . that status is not guaranteed:

The report late on Saturday said the Chinese military launched a rocket carrying a hypersonic glide vehicle that flew through low-orbit space, circling the globe before cruising towards its target, which it missed by about two dozen miles. ‘The test showed that China had made astounding progress on hypersonic weapons and was far more advanced than US officials realized,’ the report said, citing people briefed on the intelligence.

Back in June, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin testified to Congress that the U.S. had a bigger advantage over China in the form of allies:

We have something that China doesn’t have, we have allies and we have partners. If you consider the Australias, the Japans, the Korea’s of the world, there is tremendous capacity in our allies and partners. I think the Pacific Islands are absolutely important and you’ll see us continue to engage various countries in the region there and to make sure that, where we can, we’re increasing our capacity and accessibility and strengthening the relationships. But we far and away exceed any capability that China would have in terms of partner or allied capability, and we’re going to continue to strengthen what we have.

What If Conservatives Tried to, You Know, Elect Conservative Republicans?

Last week, my friend Jonah — whom I will hold in the highest regard until the day I die — floated the idea of conservatives dissatisfied with the current tone and direction of the Republican Party should form a third party. “Specifically, a third party with a simple, Reaganite conservative platform combined with a serious plank to defend the soundness of elections? For simplicity’s sake, think of it as a GOP minus the Trump personality cult.”

Charlie Cooke, Michael Brendan Dougherty, and Dan McLaughlin all responded with varying degrees of skepticism — pointing out that the most likely impact would be to split the right-of-center vote among two candidates, and ensure Democrats won more races. As Dan put it, “The battles that Jonah wants to fight are very much worth fighting. But the place to fight them is in Republican primaries. If we cannot win them there, we will not improve matters by handing power to Democrats who have no intention of ever allowing it to be given back.”

(By the way, if you think the Republican grassroots are getting angrier, more extreme, and more paranoid . . . one of the things that makes them angrier, more extreme, and more paranoid are the sorts of things they see Democrats doing in office! Elected officials breaking their own quarantine restrictions, leaving Americans in Afghanistan, and covering up rapes in public schools . . . these are not the ingredients for an even-tempered, rational, mutually respectful public debate! If people want a particular fire to go out, they must stop pouring gasoline on it.)

Outside of NRO, Erick Erickson made a particularly sharp observation about how the Republican Party may be less changed by the Trump era than many think:

The establishment guys will say and do whatever they can to stay in power. The people most willing to believe the crazy are the least likely to get elected and the people most proficient at lying to the crazy are the ones who stay around. They are, after all, the ones the party revolted against and led to Trump. But those guys are still the ones in charge. They’re really good at theater and surviving. It is one of the least appreciated aspects of the Age of Trump — all the people who the base wanted to purge by bringing in Trump are still the ones in charge.

For perspective, in 2014, before the rise of Trump, congressional Republicans were led by Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn in the Senate and Kevin McCarthy and Steve Scalise in the House. Today, congressional Republicans are led by . . . Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn in the Senate, and Kevin McCarthy and Steve Scalise in the House. The dog barks, but the caravan moves on.

Put me down as another one who thinks forming a “Conservative Independent Party” — or whatever you want to call it — isn’t going to get us where we want to go. Could I see the day where the Republican Party got so obsessed with what strikes me as nonsensical ephemera — election conspiracy theories, QAnon, anti-vaccination arguments, defending January 6 defendants, Jewish Space Lasers — that I’d want some other sane conservative party to vote for? Sure. But the Republican Party hasn’t yet become dominated by Marjorie Taylor Greene or Louie Gohmert. The GOP is also the party of Tim Scott, Chris Sununu, Dan Crenshaw, or whomever in the party seems to have the best judgment in your eyes — and frustrated, level-headed conservatives departing the GOP and cutting all ties is the best way to ensure the inmates are left running the asylum.

Meanwhile, Trump himself is more or less calling for Republicans to stay home in 2022 and 2024, unless what he calls the “Presidential Election Fraud of 2020” is “solved.”

“If we don’t solve the Presidential Election Fraud of 2020 (which we have thoroughly and conclusively documented), Republicans will not be voting in ‘22 or ‘24. It is the single most important thing for Republicans to do.” What constitutes “solving” the “Presidential Election Fraud of 2020”? Voter ID laws? Poll-watchers? Reinstating Trump as president, as he apparently fantasizes?

Crazy thought here: What if conservatives tried to elect as many Republicans as possible in this year’s off elections, the 2022 midterms, and 2024? Just try it and see what happens! At minimum the progressive Democrats will be disempowered and miserable.

ADDENDUM: A closing thought on the Pete Buttigieg paternity-leave issue, from my other podcast co-host: Most women who reach any level of management in an institution, never mind the top level, are extremely sensitive to any perception that they’re not pulling their weight, or taking too much time off, or not working hard enough. Yes, I’m sure exceptions exist. But there’s a reason we don’t hear much about women CEOs or heads of nonprofits taking two months off while their organization is experiencing a crisis; they know they would experience far too much reputational damage to make it worthwhile.

As Dan McLaughlin observes, “When you ask what amount of time it is reasonable for a senior executive to take during a crisis, it of course is relevant that he didn’t give birth.”

You might even say that the ability to take two months off — during a crisis no less — and not have to worry about reputational damage is a form of . . . privilege.

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