Shafaq News / Three informed sources have revealed a proposal to Iraq to settle Afghan refugees in Iraqi territory, in exchange for privileges awarded to Baghdad, in an attempt to find a way out of the confusion the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan created.
However, no official Iraqi body has adopted the proposal, and various reactions suggest that it would be a ticking bomb if it were to proceed.
The United States has succeeded in securing a withdrawal of its military forces from Afghanistan before the August 31 exit deadline. However, it was so late that it failed to deal with the file of Afghan collaborators, to the point where tens of thousands of Afghan citizens poured into the airport in an attempt to find a safe exit.
The scenes, including Afghan attempts to cling to U.S. military aircraft during takeoff, as well as the suicide bombing that targeted crowds gathered at the airport and killed dozens, including 13 U.S. soldiers, were a major embarrassment to Joe Biden's administration.
Due to those incidents, Biden's administration tried to speed up processing the collaborators' file by transporting them by military aircraft to neighboring countries, including Qatar, the U.A.E., and Bahrain, as temporary shelters, in the hope of arranging their settlement in other countries.
Because Washington is held responsible, at least morally, it has announced its intention to speed up the settlement of thousands of them on U.S. soil, but the number of fugitives is too high for one country to absorb.
As the European Union stumbles over the idea of settlement, after its countries have absorbed tens of thousands of refugees over the past years, from Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other countries, Europeans find it difficult to take a unified position on the settlement plan. Also, the possibility that Turkey will absorb them has been discussed, but so far, the idea is not welcomed.
Settlement in Iraq
The sources pointed out that a regional-international synergy on the idea of settling them in Iraq, the proposal appears to have been put forward by the U.A.E. and Qatar during the Baghdad summit, and the desire is mainly American.
The Iranians seem to welcome the idea initially, but only according to a specific criterion, which is the inclusion of the settlement of Afghan Shiite refugees in Al-Anbar.
According to the information, it is clear that the file is inside the political-sectarian market in Iraq, through attempts to agree on Sunni-Shiite sharing of refugees to be settled in Iraq.
During the Baghdad summit, Emiratis and Qataris floated the idea of resettling 10,000 Afghan refugees as a first stage, followed by other groups, in return for concessions, including one billion dollars to be paid immediately.
According to the sources, among the places that have been put forward as a site for Afghan refugee camps is Al-Anbar governorate, specifically in the vicinity of the U.S. Base of Ayn al-Asad.
While Al-Anbar has rejected the project to settle Afghans in its areas, informed sources confirmed that the project is under consideration and that the geographically appropriate cities are selected to accommodate them per specific controls.
"If the information we have about this is confirmed, it will be rejected by all Al-Anbar's residents," Al-Anbar governor's advisor Sufyan al-Ithawi stated.
"As spokesman for the Al-Anbar tribes opposed to terrorism, I declare that all those who oppose the governorate's security file will face rejection, in addition to confronting terrorism in all its forms and the security ways available to us, especially since the governorate suffered a lot before its liberation by the security forces and in cooperation with the Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Forces-P.M.F.). Therefore, a fierce confrontation will be inevitable to destroy such plans," al-Ithawi said.
"So far, it is merely a test for the Iraqi street before taking any step. It is still under consideration to determine the geography of their settlement. Besides, dealing with afghan displaced persons should be done very carefully not to repeat the scenario of fighting with ISIS during the fall of Mosul in June 2014," a Shiite leader told Shafaq News agency.
"The Iraqi authorities may allow afghan women and children to enter in consideration of their humanitarian conditions, and will determine their stay near camps for displaced persons north of the country, to block those fishing in troubled water. However, only simple numbers will be allowed into Iraq." said the leader, who preferred to remain anonymous.
"Some provincial elders who were leading resistance factions against al-Qaeda, which was active in the western parts of the country, welcomed the project," the leader said, adding, "Afghans may be sheltered near the Al-Hol camp and the Iraqi-Syrian border to avoid any consequences."
However, Ammar al-Shibli, a member of the parliamentary security and defense committee, said that his committee had not heard of any secret agreements concerning the sheltering of Afghans, but that the file remained up to the government.
Until this moment, all attempts to obtain government comment on this file have failed.
Malik al-Najras, deputy secretary-general of the National Al-Izza Party, which is part of the Iraqi National Forces Alliance, stated that he was briefed on such information regarding a regional proposal to settle thousands of Afghans near the Ayn al-Asad airbase, which houses U.S. military, "This in itself is worrying because it is a ticking bomb and we fear its consequences."
Al-Najras added, "We fear that the project will be an agreement between Iran and America to protect their interests in the country. However, it would be more reliving if the proposal was pure American. If it is by the agreement of the two parties, it may inevitably restore the governorate's sectarian strife, which we ardently reject. If the project is applied on the ground, we will express our rejection by all means."
"If it is an effort by the eastern neighbor, Iran, then it is certainly seeking to protect its interests on the one hand and to extend its influence to the governorate on the other, especially if it is limited to the settlement of Afghan Shiites exclusively," he said.
It is noteworthy that Secretary of State Tony Blinken said during his recent visit to Kuwait that he had discussed the "temporary" settlement of Afghans, without giving details of the talks.
Meanwhile, Shafaq News agency interviewed several P.M.F. leaders, and others in Najaf, all of whom stressed that the project "will not pass peacefully."
They noted, "The project to settle Afghans or other nationalities does not serve the security and stability of the country, especially in the liberated cities." However, the leaders have not denied any information that Iran does not mind the idea of the proposal, only if Afghan Shiite families would be settled in Al-Anbar.