Following the Biden administration’s botched withdrawal from Afghanistan last August, large numbers of Afghan nationals were evacuated from their home country as the Taliban seized control of the nation. As a result, thousands of Afghans were brought to the U.S. However, some of these evacuees pose national security concerns that could threaten the American people.
Recently, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a report entitled, “Evaluation of the Screening of Displaced Persons from Afghanistan.” According to the OIG report, as of November 2, 2021, the National Ground Intelligence Center (NGIC) – a component of the DOD – identified 50 Afghan evacuees in the U.S. with significant security concerns. The OIG report defines “significant security concerns” as individuals “whose latent fingerprints have been found on improvised explosive devises and known or suspected terrorists.”
The report also discovered that as of September 17, 2021, the NGIC identified another 31 Afghans in the continental United States with derogatory information, which could make them ineligible for parole. Of those 31 evacuees, only three could be located.
Additionally, the report said, “U.S. agencies did not use all available data when vetting Afghan evacuees.” It continued, “Afghan evacuees were not vetted by the National Counter-Terrorism Center using DOD data prior to arriving in the continental United States.” Moreover, as OIG notes, the DOD has agreements with foreign partners that bars the sharing of certain vetting information with U.S. agencies outside of the DOD, such as U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
This alarming information should raise the following questions: How does withholding vetting intelligence from relevant agencies conducting background checks on individuals from a terror-prone country benefit our screening protocols? And how did authorities lose the whereabouts of these Afghans with security concerns?
While the DOD created an arrangement between the NGIC, CBP, and the Department of Homeland Security to share biometric information on Afghan evacuees last September, it is slated to expire in June 2022. The DOD should codify a permanent agreement between these agencies to screen for more terror threats.
The Biden administration must fix this vetting failure and information sharing protocol among our intelligence and immigration agencies. Streamlining vital information on foreign nationals should be a top priority for the administration.
As FAIR recommended last year, another measure to tighten our national security would be to vet Afghan evacuees in secure military installations in third countries before admitting them into the U.S. This would allow officials to identify and remove potential terror threats without the possibility of them setting foot in this country.
There is no excuse for allowing scores of suspected terrorists and bombmakers into the U.S. and for losing track of their whereabouts. The American people must not be exposed to the risk of a terrorist attack that could have been avoided had the federal government implemented common-sense immigration policies from the start.