GOP lawmakers want full accounting of failed vetting efforts
More than four months after the Biden administration airlifted nearly 75,000 Afghans out of the war-torn country, it still does not know the identity or backgrounds of many who have since been resettled in the United States, according to three senators who received classified briefings on the situation.
“During a nonpublic briefing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, it was made clear that not all security and vetting measures have been taken to ensure the safety of our homeland,” Sens. Ron Johnson (R., Wis.), Josh Hawley (R., Mo.), and Rick Scott (R., Fla.) disclosed in a letter sent Thursday to the Department of Homeland Security. The lawmakers are ordering the Biden administration to account for its failed vetting efforts and to “address the lack of transparency regarding this evacuation and resettlement operation.” Congress, the lawmakers disclose, still does not have basic information about who the refugees are or if they were qualified to be brought into the country.
“It is beyond unacceptable that several months after President Biden’s disastrous and deadly withdrawal we still do not have a full account of all the Americans who are still trapped in Afghanistan or a full account of the Afghans who were evacuated to the U.S.,” the lawmakers write, according to a copy of the letter obtained exclusively by the Washington Free Beacon.
In the months since the Biden administration airlifted Afghans out of the country, it has obstructed congressional investigations into the bungled evacuation effort. Secretary of State Antony Blinken admitted to Congress in September that most refugees were not vetted prior to arriving stateside. Internal emails show that those helming the evacuation effort were ordered to fill flights to “excess” with unvetted Afghans. More than 12,000 Afghan refugees, and potentially more, arrived without a visa or basic identification, the Free Beacon first reported in October.
With the administration hoping to turn the page on its chaotic exit from Afghanistan, Johnson—ranking member of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations—and his colleagues say that they will not back down from their oversight efforts.
“We are still concerned about your agencies’ ability to fully vet these individuals if they do not have any identification documents and cannot prove who they claim to be,” the letter to DHS states.
The lawmakers also expressed concern that the hasty evacuation of these Afghans was undertaken as hundreds of Americans were trapped in the country with no way to get back home. The Biden administration announced in October around 300 Americans were still stuck in the country but has not made any updates since.
Before the end of the year, the lawmakers demand the Biden administration disclose to lawmakers how many Afghan refugees cannot be identified and the steps being taken to ensure these individuals are not violent criminals or affiliated with terrorist organizations. They also want to know if the Biden administration created new identity documents for those who arrived without any paperwork.
The lawmakers also call on the administration to disclose if any of the Afghan refugees have been connected to terrorism or other crimes, as well as if they were interviewed in person by U.S. personnel prior to being resettled. Reports indicate that some of those airlifted to America were complicit in child trafficking and sex crimes.
In light of these reports, the senators want to know how many refugees have been arrested by U.S. law enforcement and are slated to be deported from the country. This includes details about whether Immigration and Customs Enforcement detained any of these Afghans over national security concerns.
DHS must also “provide the number of these Afghan nationals and other foreign nationals that have been resettled in each state so far,” according to the senators’ information request.