On today’s episode of the 5 Things podcast: Afghanistan one year later
The US withdrew its military from the country a year ago. Reporter Chris Kenning explains how many Afghan allies still haven’t reached the US Plus, more American lawmakers visit Taiwan, Russia may take a step forward on Brittney Griner release talks, a meteor’s sound scares some Utahns and Vanessa Bryant’s civil trial against Los Angeles County continue.
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Buenos dias. I’m Taylor Wilson, and this is 5 Things you need to know Monday, the 15th of August, 2022. Today, one year since the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, plus Russia may take a step forward on Brittney Griner release talks, and more .
Here are some of the top headlines:
- The death toll in a firework storage explosion in the Armenian capital of Yerevan has risen to six. The tragedy came at a popular market yesterday.
- Anne Heche has died. Her death of her comes nine days after she was pulled from a burning car and hospitalized in critical condition. The actress, known from a number of hit movies in the nineties and the soap opera Another World, was 53.
- And author Salman Rushdie has been taken off a ventilator and is now able to talk. He was stabbed last week while preparing to give a lecture in upstate New York.
It’s been one year since a chaotic and deadly US military withdrawal from Afghanistan.
[Sound of U.S. military airplane about to take off from Afghanistan on Aug. 15, 2021.]
The Taliban immediately took over the country, including the capital of Kabul. In the US’s final days in the city, much of the chaos took place at the airport, with people storming the tarmac at one point and clinging to a military plane as it took off. There was also a deadly suicide bomb attack at the airport and a US drone strike killed 10 innocent people at a home, including seven children. President Joe Biden’s approval rating fell below 50% for the first time following the withdrawal. Though, his counter-terrorism strategy did bring a concrete result last month, with the killing of top Al-Qaeda leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri. But as the US evacuated its military from Afghanistan, many people who had helped the US during its 20 year war there, were left behind. Biden said some, including American citizens there in the final days, did not want to leave.
And so there’s a lot of reasons why they have reached out not just to us, but to others, as to why it would be continued in their interest to get more of the personnel we want to get out, we can locate them. Now there’s not many left that we can assess, they don’t want to come out. There’s some Americans we’ve identified, we’ve contacted the vast majority of them, not all of them, who don’t want to leave.
But other Afghan allies have been trying to get out. And still a year later have not been able to reach safety in the US. National Reporter Chris Kenning has more with producer PJ Elliot.
It’s been a year this month since America ended its 20 year war there and evacuated more than 76,000 Afghans to the US. And in many of those, folks were connected to the US in some way, whether they were interpreters for the military or those who’d worked in other positions that put them at risk for Taliban reprisals. But in the chaotic period as the US left and the Taliban swept in, not everyone could make it to the airport before those flights ended, who would’ve likely qualified for protection in the US. So there aren’t firm numbers, but refugee advocates say at least tens of thousands of Afghan allies would likely qualify. And that number reaches into the hundreds of thousands when their family members are included. But after a year they’re still struggling to reach safety in the US.
So what is currently being done to try to bring them to the United States and what kind of obstacles are these people still facing over in Afghanistan?
If you’re in Afghanistan, there’s really a couple of ways that you can pursue protection in the US. You might get lucky and win a seat on a US relocation flight. And since late March, the US has supported travel for about 5,500 eligible Afghans on these flights. But the problem is, that in the absence of a US consulate in Afghanistan, most of these folks will need to reach a third country for visa processing and interviews and that creates a lot of logistical barriers. And a lot of these folks don’t have the money to be able to travel, which is dangerous, to cross borders, to get a visa in a third country. And then be able to support themselves for what maybe a wait of a year or two. And that’s because there are long wait times for these various visa and immigration channels through the US. The wait times can be up to 18 months in some cases. And so that’s really prohibitive for a lot of people.
Now, the Biden administration has sought to accelerate processing through various immigration channels. They’ve sought to add staff to streamline processing and ease the criteria that, that critics said were unnecessary barriers. But advocates that are really seeking new ways to speed up this process say that, more needs to be done. These were allies who fought and stood with us, they say, and they face real threats from the Taliban. And so they’d like to see more relocation flights or more expedited processing at additional US bases overseas to speed this up.
Meanwhile, the Taliban has returned much of the extremist rule to the country it promised not to. Most Afghan teenage girls have not stepped foot in a classroom in more than a year. The country has also been thrown into deep poverty due in part to its relative isolation in the international community. Natural disasters have also ravaged rural regions over the past year, with slow or no recovery. An earthquake in June killed at least a thousand people in southeastern Afghanistan, while flash floods in the country’s north killed at least 31 over the past week.
Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-wen met earlier today with a five member delegation of US Congress members. The group is led by Democratic Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey. It’s the latest sign of support by US lawmakers for the self-governing island that China claims as its own. China announced even more military drills around Taiwan today, as the visit happened less than two weeks after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip there. That visit set off a number of Chinese military drills since China does not approve of Taiwan having any official contact with foreign governments. Taiwan has also carried out its own military drills in recent weeks in response to China.
Russia says it’s ready for what the country calls a professional conversation and concrete steps toward freeing American WNBA star, Brittney Griner. She’s been detained there since February and was sentenced last week to nine years behind bars for marijuana possession. After the sentence, US Deputy Chief of Mission Elizabeth Rood said it was unjust.
It is a miscarriage of justice. The US department of state has determined that Ms. Griner is wrongfully detained. Nothing in today’s decision changes that determination. We will continue to be closely engaged in this case. We will remain in frequent contact with Ms. Griner and with her legal team.
There’s a possibility that Russia might free her and fellow American, Paul Whelan, who’s imprisoned in Russia on an espionage conviction. But in exchange, Russia may push for Viktor Bout. He’s serving a 25 year sentence on charges of conspiring to kill US citizens, delivering anti-aircraft missiles and providing aid to a terrorist organization.
[Sound of meteor over Utah]
That’s the sound of what experts say was a meteor over the weekend in the Northern Utah and Southern Idaho area. It was so loud that the University of Utah’s seismograph monitoring department reported that some people felt the boom, causing concerns of an earthquake. Reporter Jordan Mendoza and producer PJ Elliot have more.
Yeah, so a lot of people in Northern Utah and some parts in Southern Idaho, it’s typical Saturday morning, and then they heard this loud, large boom. And when you hear something like that, it really can rattle people. And there were some people who were even reporting it as an earthquake. Or they weren’t know what was happening, because some people said their homes, they either felt it or that they themselves felt the ground shake. And so there was this large boom that people felt and it rattled a lot of people.
What did the National Weather Service have to say about it?
So they weren’t able to really confirm 1000% what it was, but what they did say, was they used one of their lightning mapping, which really tracks lightning and clouds and obviously, the ones that hit the ground. And in that tracking system that they had, they saw little flashes of something. And given that there was no storm happening in the area, there was no chance, really, of lightning to be found in that area. And it was right in the area where people said they heard the boom. They said that it was a meteor and it could have been that either the flash that popped up, the tail of it that popped up. And so it more than likely seems really likely that it was the meteor that caused this loud noise.
Is it a common occurrence that the meteors make these noises when entering the atmosphere?
yeah. And that’s a really crazy thing to think about, because you think meteor and you think, “Oh, you’d be able to see it.” And they’re so far away that you wouldn’t be able to think to hear it. But really what’s happening is that once they enter Earth’s atmosphere, sometimes they’re entering yet at such a relatively high speed. The meteor for this one, they haven’t been able to confirm how fast it was moving, but when it does break into Earth’s atmosphere, it creates a sonic boom type of sound. And so really that sound is what people are hearing and sometimes it can be very minimal where it’s only some people may hear it or feel it. And it can be instances like this one, where people feel their houses shake or move and it startles everybody. So really it doesn’t happen all the time, but it’s very possible that meteors can make a sound anytime they enter Earth’s atmosphere.
Vanessa Bryant’s civil trial against Los Angeles County continues today. She lost her husband, NBA legend, Kobe Bryant, and 13 year old daughter, Gianna, in a helicopter crash in early 2020. She says a Sheriff’s deputy spread around thick photos of the crash scene, including dead bodies. Last week, the jury heard testimony from three witnesses, including Douglas Johnson, the deputy who Bryant’s legal team believes started to spread the photos. Vanessa Bryant and Chris Chester, a financial advisor who lost his wife and daughter in the same crash sued the county in 2020. The trial could continue for several more weeks.
Thanks for listening to 5 Things. You can find us every day of the year, right here on whatever your favorite podcast app is. Thanks to PJ Elliott for his great work on the show, and I’m back tomorrow with more than 5 Things from USA TODAY.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism