The Foreign Service Journal, April 2024

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | APRIL 2024 17 TALKING POINTS Deal to Swap Navalny, Two Americans On Feb. 26, the Associated Press and others reported that at the time of Alexei Navalny’s death in a Russian prison on Feb. 16, talks were underway with Germany to exchange Navalny and two unidenti ed American prisoners for a Russian imprisoned in Germany. On March 18, Russian President Vladimir Putin con rmed the news. It is unclear which Americans would have been included in the deal. Several are currently being held in Russia, including Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, and Marc Fogel, who, until his arrest in 2021, was a teacher at the Anglo-American School of Moscow. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller declined to comment on the story. Another American Arrested in Russia Ksenia Karelina, a 33-year-old dual national who lives in Los Angeles, was arrested after she traveled to Russia in January to visit family members. She was charged with treason for, according to Russia’s Federal Security Service, “providing nancial assistance to a foreign state in activities directed against the security of our country.” Karelina had allegedly donated just over $50 to a U.S.-based charity, Razom for Ukraine. Razom released a statement noting its activities are “focused on humanitarian aid, disaster relief, education, and advocacy.” Among the tens of thousands of people who have donated to Razom are many from the U.S. foreign a airs community. U.S. National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters that it is dangerous for U.S. citizens or dual citizens to be in Russia, calling on Americans to “depart immediately.” Afghanistan Update: SIGAR On Jan. 30, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) released its 62nd Quarterly Report to Congress. For the rst time, this quarterly report examines the “critical question of whether, two and a half years after the U.S. withdrawal, things are getting better or worse for the Afghan people,” and it nds that except for some improvement in a couple of areas, such as counternarcotics, “most social, economic, and humanitarian indicators are clearly worsening.” Acute food insecurity was predicted to a ect 15.8 million people by March 2024. Polio eradication e orts are at risk. Rates of child and forced marriage are increasing. Girls’ education past sixth grade continues to be banned, and in January the Taliban began detaining women and girls for violating the dress code mandating full covering. e humanitarian crisis intensi- ed in October, the report states, when Pakistan’s government announced it would deport all undocumented Afghan migrants, estimated to be up to 1.3 million. By January 2024, some 493,000 Afghans, many with no place to go or means of sustaining themselves, had returned. Despite the fact that it does not recognize the Taliban government, the U.S. remains the largest donor to the Afghan people, having appropriated $11.21 billion in assistance since its withdrawal in August 2021. And the U.S. continues to respond to humanitarian crises there as they evolve. e report documents the status of U.S. funding and activities in Afghanistan, including a detailed review of State Department and USAID programs to support refugees, remove unexploded ordnance, reform the criminal justice system, and limit drug tra cking, as well as the condition of the Afghan Fund. In December 2023, SIGAR reports, the State Department released “an updated integrated country strategy for Afghanistan,” the rst since the Taliban seized power. Aimed at ensuring the country is never again used for attacks against the U.S. and its allies and at reducing Afghanistan’s dependence on U.S. assistance, the strategy acknowledges the need to “build functional relationships” with the Taliban to succeed. Signi cantly, SIGAR is working on a lessons-learned report on how to better understand and mitigate interference and diversion of humanitarian assistance in countries where the government isn’t recognized. Read the full report at SIGAR-Report-Jan2024. Karelina reportedly sent Razom for Ukraine $51.80 in the months before she was arrested.