January Update from SPSN
The Afghan withdrawal has animated the veteran community unlike anything I have experienced in my lifetime. Maybe it’s because I am a vet now, but I feel the calling that many have modeled stepping forward to honor an ethos of leave no one behind, an ethos instilled during our time in service, has driven this uprising.
Through various groups in the area, the Ops Center has been able to provide food and water as well as stoves and other supplies to allies, many who are in hiding.
Team Member Spotlight
Amanda “Mandy” Matti is the Battle Captain for the EOA Ops Center in Los Angeles, California. But “Battle Captain” doesn’t quite cover her story, not even a little bit. Her story is filled with many victories and tears to become an essential part of the team. She met her husband, Fadi, in the summer of 2005 in Baghdad where Mandy was stationed with the U.S. Navy. Fadi was the interpreter assigned to Mandy while she was there.
He then handed the phone back to her. Apparently the grandmother recognized the dialect the guard was speaking in, and he was from her hometown. She knew him and his grandmother. So when she was screaming at him. She threatened him with spanking and telling his grandmother if he didn’t let her family through!
To read the full story, click the link below.
A Message From SPSN’S Steve Miska
I continue to be humbled as people join the effort to stand for our values as Americans by protecting our Iraqi, Afghan, and other colleagues around the world who have supported our efforts. For example, Jure Erlic continues to volunteer for the SPSN project while studying and teaching as a grad student at Carnegie Mellon University. The International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) just had a big win in a case that is at the center of a lawsuit. Read more about the case below. Pete Farley, a veteran trying to bring his interpreter’s family to the U.S. has over 136K signatures on a Change.org petition, and there are many other instances of people standing up. Most recently, I continue to get asked to help with vulnerable asylum cases where sending individuals who supported our national security back to their country of origin would mean almost certain death. People reach out in need more and more. I don’t see this trend abating in the near term or even over the long run. We need to do better to protect our soft networks as a country. The research and policy development options that SPSN has created offer a path forward. If you haven’t read the white paper we produced this year, click on the link here.
I hope to see some of you in Washington, D.C. at the end of October for the ISOA Summit. If you’re in California, feel free to connect. I would be happy to provide more information on soft networks or trends in the first amendment space when wearing my other hat as Executive Director of First Amendment Voice.
Dear Soft Network Advocates,
As Steve’s message notes major developments in the protection of Soft Networks have occurred.
- IRAP’s aid was crucial in securing a significant legal victory in a lawsuit against the US government over egregious delays in the VISA processing of SIV applicants. The court ordered the US government to expeditiously adjudicate the applications that have been pending for over nine months, an issue that would not have been addressed if not for advocates like IRAP and yourselves who continue to bring attention and support to the issue. To read the full press release of the case click here.
- Soft network advocate, Ambassador Ryan Crocker, has recently published an opinion piece in the Washington Post calling for the support of our Afghan allies. Ambassador Crocker notes that as the US attempts to devise a withdrawal strategy from Afghanistan, the US is failing to address the crucial question of “What will happen to our Afghan partners who served the U.S. mission after we leave?” In failing to plan for how to protect our local partners, whose lives and families lives are at constant risk, the US is repeating the same mistakes that endangered our local South Vietnamese partners in the aftermath of the Paris Peace Accords. To read the full opinion click here or on the link below.
- SPSN is proud to announce that it will also be participating in this year’s International Stability Operations Association’s (ISOA) summit hosted from October 28-30 in Arlington, Virginia. SPSN’s Steve Miska will be featured as a panelist on the Indigenous Networks panel, moderated by Ioannis Koskinas of the Hoplite Group, at 1:15 P.M on October 30th. For further information on the summit or to register click here.
- Additionally on July 22nd, Steve was featured as a guest speaker on the Truth About War podcast hosted by the Pittsburgh Veterans Breakfast Club Director Nicholas Grimes. SPSN is grateful for the opportunity to have participated in this podcast and hopes that its participation will lead to greater education and attention on this overlooked issue. Keep a look out for updates as we will look forward to notifying you when the podcast is up on their website.
Thank you for your continued support of our work in strategically protecting soft networks. We look forward to providing further updates on research and policy development efforts to protect our closest partners in conflict zones during these trying times.
The SPSN Team
- ‘Court finds VISA delays faced by thousands of Afghans and Iraqis who assisted the United States are unlawful’, IRAP, Henrike Dessaules, 09/23/19
- ‘Crocker on Afghanistan’, National Review, Jay Nordlinger, 09/18/19
- ‘We can’t leave Afghanistan without protecting our closest allies first’, Washington Post, Ambassador Ryan Crocker, 08/29/19
- ‘Our shared humanity’, Northwest Democrat Gazette, Mathew Tully, 08/11/19
- ‘Refugee resettlement represents the best of American values’, Citizen Times, Ted W. Goins Jr., 07/30/19
- ‘After 16 Years of War and Red Tape, an Iraqi Interpreter Becomes an US Citizen’, The Virginian-Pilot, Courtney Mabeus, 07/06/19
Dear Soft Network Advocates,
2019 has been an exciting year for SPSN. A generous grant from the Smith Richardson Foundation, in 2018, and the continued support from the Pacific Council, No One Left Behind, and many other valuable partners provided SPSN with the opportunity to delve deeper into the strategic challenges and solutions to protect soft networks. SPSN researchers Steve Miska, Rebecca Ash, and Sam Romano pursued a nearly year-long study that culminated in the creation of Soft Networks: Protecting an Achilles Heel of American Influence.
Building on previous suggestions and research they examined best practices used by non-military actors and local national partners, cybersecurity threats to soft networks, and the gaps in government contracting policy that jeopardize local partner security. Read the Executive Summary here.
This month also saw us welcome a new researcher to our team for this summer. Jure Erlic is a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon’s Institute for Politics and Strategy and will be housed in the Pacific Council on International Policy in Los Angeles. Please join me in giving Jure a warm welcome.
Thank you for your continued support of our work in strategically protecting soft networks. We look forward to providing further updates on research and policy development efforts processes to protect our closest partners in conflict zones.
The SPSN team
- ‘Stivers bill would extend measure allowing interpreters for US to come to America’, The Columbus Dispatch, Jessica Wehrman, 06/18/19
- ‘At this L.A. supper club, refugees share food and memories of the lives they left behind’, Los Angeles Times, Sarah Parvini, 05/31/19
- ‘Lawmakers ask Trump admin why Afghan interpreter facing Taliban threats has no U.S. visa’, NBC News, Dan De Luce, 05/30/19
- ‘Trump Administration Has Drastically Dropped Visas For Afghan And Iraqi Interpreters’, NPR, Quil Lawrence, 05/01/19
- ‘Afghan interpreters are terrified about a possible U.S. deal with the Taliban’, Vice News, Ben Anderson, 04/25/19