Volunteers receive images and videos every day of Afghans, including children, executed at the hands of the Taliban.
Two months ago, Rambo, the code name for a commander in the Afghan National Army’s Special Operations Command, and seven other commandos were kidnapped by the Taliban. A video of the commandos’ execution was sent to members of Operation North Star, an all-volunteer organization working tirelessly to secure safe haven for thousands of Afghan allies abandoned by the State Department in post-withdrawal Afghanistan.
After watching the video hundreds of times in search of Rambo, volunteers “assumed the worst,” according to Ben Owen, a former U.S. Army infantryman and president of Flanders Fields, a nonprofit that raises funds for evacuation organizations Operation North Star and Task Force Argo.
Two weeks ago, Flanders Fields received a request to acquire a safe house in Afghanistan for an unidentified high-value target. An hour later, Owen received a pixelated photo of a familiar Afghan man being embraced by his family members on the safe house floor. Rambo had escaped Taliban captivity.
Maintaining Rambo’s safety presents constant monetary and logistical struggles for Flanders Fields and Operation North Star. Rambo “is essentially trapped in a meat grinder with his family,” according to a former U.S. Army recon platoon sergeant and Operation North Star volunteer we will call Duke. Rambo had inadequate time to apply for the documents the State Department requires to enter the United States prior to the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. Applying for the passport the Taliban require to exit Afghanistan would also put Rambo’s life at risk.
The only solution, according to Duke, is for the U.S. government to set up “a surged second wave of evacuations” to a host nation where at-risk Afghans like Rambo can “be further vetted by the State Department.”
Every day, Duke receives images and videos of Afghans, including children, executed by the Taliban. He sends the gruesome files to Amnesty International to document the Taliban’s relentless violence against the 10,000 to 100,000 Coalition Forces allies who remain in Afghanistan. Much of the proof he receives now comes from Rambo, whose “commando brothers [are] being tortured and killed,” Duke says. “It breaks my heart … that [the U.S. government] would leave this man and his family. Nobody at North Star is going to leave him. Never.”
An interpreter, whom we will call Nasir, is one of around 500 people Operation North Star has successfully exfiltrated from Afghanistan. After working with the U.S. Army for 10 years, Nasir was one of 18,800 interpreters mired in the State Department’s Special Immigrant Visa backlogs when Kabul fell.
In early August, he began receiving threats from the Taliban, who said they would take Nasir’s 10- and 13-year-old daughters as wives, “execute his pregnant wife, and cut the baby out of her in front of him before they kill him,” Owen said.
On Aug. 23, Nasir and his family joined the throngs waiting outside Hamid Karzai International Airport, hoping to be evacuated from Afghanistan. The first day, his three-year-old son was nearly killed after being trampled in a stampede incited by Taliban gunfire. The following day, Nasir suffered heatstroke and lost consciousness.
On Aug. 25, hellbent on getting through to the Americans, Owen says Nasir “plowed through Taliban” with his vehicle, which was riddled with bullet holes by the time he arrived at the meet-up point Owen had arranged with American contacts. After a tense handover period, Nasir and his family were brought to a U.S. facility where they remain now until Nasir’s background check and SIV is processed.
Another man’s evacuation story, who we will call Hassan, nearly ended in tragedy when the Operation North Star safe house he shared with a group of six Afghan Christians was raided by the Taliban. As an LGBT activist and gay man, Hassan was in serious danger when the Taliban, which reportedly maintains a kill list of homosexual Afghans, took him into custody. Miraculously, Hassan talked his way to freedom.
During eight weeks of shared hardship in their safe house, the leader of the Christian group became Hassan’s close friend. The group of seven has been evacuated to a third country, where they await the extensive vetting, including biometric identification and a lie detector test, that must occur prior to entry in the United States.
Operation North Star’s manifest includes about 30 dual citizens, and around 2,000 Afghan allies, government personnel, activists, minorities, and policewomen who are stuck in Afghanistan. Around 90 percent of these individuals do not possess the State Department paperwork required to enter the United States. For enemies of the Taliban, awaiting visa processing and vetting in Afghanistan is a dangerous proposition.
Just last week, when Feroza’s interpreter husband was killed by the Taliban, she also lost the chance to use the SIV program he qualified for. Now a widow in a country she cannot escape, Feroza cannot work or receive an education.
“Had the State Department not impeded every effort to evacuate [Feroza’s husband] and his family,” Owen told the Washington Examiner, “he’d still be alive.”
In July, U.S. Navy Lt. Cdr. Doug Ramsdell received a call from his former colleague, an Afghan commando we will call Noor Mohammad, who needed assistance leaving Afghanistan with his imperiled family as the Taliban gained ground in the country. Ramsdell jumped in headfirst to save his colleague, and Operation 620 was born. By mid-August, Noor Mohammad’s family of 10 had become a family of 260.
The Afghans on Ramsdell’s early manifest were Taliban targets, backed by U.S. military personnel willing to vouch for their honorable service to the United States, but none met the criteria to apply for the SIV program, which is limited to interpreters and personnel directly employed “by or on behalf of” the U.S. government. Ramsdell pursued Priority-1, Priority-2, and Humanitarian Parole visas in order to ensure these forgotten allies reach safety.
The day prior to the Aug. 26 bombing at the Kabul airport, Ramsdell directed his group to travel by bus to Mazar-i-Sharif. On their nine-hour overnight journey, the group went through 16 Taliban checkpoints. At a stop outside the city, one bus was robbed under the guise of taxation. Several Afghans were pulled off the bus that followed. Under interrogation, they thanked the Taliban for “sav[ing] [them] from the wicked western philosophy,” Ramsdell said. They were allowed back on the bus.
When plans to fly the group out of Afghanistan did not materialize, Ramsdell located safe houses and optimized security measures. Over the following weeks, the organization continued to grow. Today, 620 Afghans, including teachers, medics, and aircrew chiefs, are putting their faith in Ramsdell’s team to find them safe haven outside their homeland.
Despite constant efforts from Ramsdell’s all-volunteer team to provide for their safety, more than 50 Afghans from Operation 620’s original manifest are missing. Ramsdell says they have been “disappeared” by Taliban hit squads, who have access to biometric data and personnel lists left behind by the U.S.
For a time, the Taliban’s stranglehold on media kept evidence of these reprisals from reaching Western audiences. Finally, last month, Human Rights Watch reported having “credible information on over 100 killings” of former Afghan military, police, and intelligence personnel in four of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces between Aug. 15 and Oct. 31.
Due to shortcomings with the SIV program, a chaotic withdrawal, and a lack of assistance to stranded allies or the aid groups assisting them, Afghan allies stuck in Afghanistan face constant danger with little hope for their future. Evacuation groups working to bring them to safety need millions of dollars to transport Afghans to host countries where they can await visa processing and vetting, and to support and sponsor Afghans as they await humanitarian parole adjudication. They also need assistance from the U.S. government.
As it stands, Operation 620 and Operation North Star spend between $12 and $30 per person every day to provide protection, food, water, and safe houses for at-risk Afghans who are hunted in their home country for their service to the United States. The costs to these groups will likely increase as winter and a devastating food crisis arrive.
At present, both groups are struggling to meet their funding needs. Operation 620 is currently $95,000 in the red. Operation North Star has twice run out of funds, severely affecting their ability to assist those in dire need. Even as funding diminishes, the number of struggling Afghans does not. Owen says he receives “thousands of messages” from Afghan allies in need of aid every day.
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.
By The Hill•
Lebanon is facing a dangerous combination of accelerating crises — economic, political and societal. Although Lebanon is a small country, important issues for U.S. national interest and geo-strategy are at stake. Yet, currently, American Middle East foreign policy is devoted to the single obsession of the Iran negotiations, leaving little oxygen for other matters. This is a mistake. The Biden administration should develop a more nuanced engagement with the region and especially a robust response to Lebanon’s pending collapse.
The Lebanese currency has lost close to 90 percent of its value, pushing much of the country below the poverty line, with many families relying on remittances from relatives abroad. Yet even those lifelines cannot make up for the shortages in commodities: gasoline, medications and food are all in short supply. Add to this a crumbling infrastructure that can supply electricity for only a few hours every day.
Meanwhile, a political stalemate blocks the formation of an effective government that could institute reforms that might alleviate some of the problems. Instead, the political class, largely viewed as incorrigibly corrupt, is making no effort to meet the needs of the public. One bright light is the emergence of vibrant oppositional forces. But they remain fragmented, and elections will not take place until next year.
Leadership change may therefore be too far in the future to rescue the crumbling institutions that once enjoyed a strong international reputation, especially Lebanese universities and hospitals. Now the talented personnel on which those institutions depend are trying to leave for better paying jobs abroad. After the troubled decades of civil war and occupations, after the devastation of COVID-19 and the massive destruction of the explosion in the port of Beirut on Aug. 4, 2020, this already fragile country faces even greater disorder.
Given the extent of the suffering, there is every reason to provide humanitarian assistance to Lebanon, as the United States is already doing. The U.S. also provides important training support to the Lebanese armed forces, although the scope of that mission has been shrinking. Otherwise, American engagement is quite limited. Washington should do more and put Lebanon higher on the list of foreign policy priorities for four reasons
1) Grand Strategy: Lebanon presents a clear case of the deleterious consequences of a pivot away from the region, given the reality of great power competition. If the U.S. does not provide leadership, it opens the door for other powers, notably Russia. Its naval repair facility in Tartus, Syria, is less than a 40-mile drive from the Lebanese port of Tripoli, which could be ripe for Moscow’s taking. Lebanon could become one more stepping-stone for Russia’s advance in the Middle East, unless the U.S. reasserts its role there.
2) Terrorism: The discrepancy between the degradation of living conditions in Lebanon and the immobility of the political class can lead to social unrest, a breeding ground for the sort of Islamist terrorism that has plagued the larger region. One should not discount the possibility of a resurgence of ISIS or intentional spillover effects from the Syrian civil war, which led to bombings in Beirut and Tripoli only eight years ago. The more such violence proliferates, the greater the chance that terror incubated in the region can spread beyond it, including to the U.S.
3) Refugees: Unless the Lebanese crises are addressed, the resulting social disorder is likely to produce a new wave of refugees, fleeing the ravages of a collapsed economy or, in a worst-case scenario, the resurgence of sectarian conflict. The Assad regime in Syria is not above provoking violence in Lebanon in order to achieve the sort of demographic reengineering it has undertaken at home, where it has forced targeted populations to flee, a cynical form of ethnic cleansing. The U.S. should be concerned about the destabilizing effects of renewed refugee flows into allies such as Jordan and Turkey, already hosting large refugee populations, or into the European Union, where the 2015 refugee wave continues to have disruptive political repercussions.
4) Iran: A collapse of the Lebanese state can only benefit Iran and its most anti-American political forces. Iran’s proxy in Lebanon, Hezbollah, might see an opportunity to seize power directly or, more strategically, it might prefer to consolidate its control in its strongholds and let the rest of the country dissipate, precisely in order to demonstrate the weakness of western democracy. In either case, Tehran would win, unless the U.S. engages in strategic ways to address Lebanon’s dilemmas.
Arguments that it is in the U.S. national interest to engage more strongly in Lebanon run counter to current foreign policy predispositions in Washington. A prevailing orientation deprioritizes the Middle East in general in order to shift attention to the Indo-Pacific. But that viewpoint does not need to lead to a full-scale abandoning of the Middle East that hands the region over to America’s great power adversaries.
In addition, the Biden administration views the region primarily in terms of Iran and a renewed Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Many Lebanese understand this and correctly fear that Hezbollah will benefit from a windfall when the U.S. lifts sanctions on Iran. There is no indication that the U.S. negotiation team is seriously demanding a termination of Iran’s regional destabilization campaigns, including its support for Hezbollah. Yet getting to a new deal with Tehran without such a constraint basically means appeasing Iran by trading away Lebanese sovereignty.
American national interest, including American values, requires a different path: Instead of misusing Lebanon as an accommodation to Tehran, the U.S. should make a stand in Lebanon, with policies designed to renew its democracy (and purge its corruption) and to protect its sovereignty by diminishing Hezbollah, as first steps toward pushing back against Iran’s broader expansionist ambitions.
Lebanon is a small country, but the current crisis has outsized geo-strategic implications for the U.S.
Dozens of alleged refugees have entered Germany on fake Syrian passports, which were produced using technology similar to that used to forge documents for some of the perpetrators of the Paris attacks, the German Bild newspaper reported Tuesday, citing government sources.
Last week, two French citizens posing as refugees were arrested in Austria on suspicion of having links to the November 13 Paris terror attacks. The suspects, of Algerian and Pakistani descent, were allegedly using fake Syrian passports and are believed to have entered Austria with some of the Paris attackers in October. Individuals posing as refugees entered Germany using passports made by the same means as those found on the suspects arrested in Austria.
“They contain the same features of forgery,” one of the sources told the German media outlet.
Stolen genuine documents were so intricately altered by counterfeiters that the forgery was not detected immediately, meaning those who entered the country on fake passports have not yet been found, according to the newspaper. Continue reading
By Nayla Rush • Center for Immigration Studies
I attended USCIS’s Asylum Division Quarterly Stakeholder Meeting last week. It was led by John Lafferty, chief of the Asylum Division. Those present were, for the most part, USCIS staff and immigration lawyers in charge of representing asylum seekers and refugees.
Here are a few things I learned:
The Asylum Division suffers from a high staff turnover. Loss of trained staff means recruiting and training others to do the job. It is also understaffed. Officers have a hard time meeting quotas set by the president.
In 2000, there were only 5,000 asylum cases and no backlog. There are now 120,000 cases, hence the backlog. Continue reading
The refugee crisis exists because America has indulged foolish foreign policies. To get out of this mess will require wisdom, not more of the same.
by Luma Simms • The Federalist
I was neither born nor bred in this country. I don’t have Ivy League credentials. Unlike elitists and pundits informed as much by cocktail parties as they are by polls and studies, I’m informed by blood, kin, and culture.
I was born in Baghdad to Christian parents who emigrated the old-fashioned way—legally—and for an old-fashioned reason: The treatment of Christians, like my family, by Muslims in the surrounding culture.
I cry at the “Star Spangled Banner,” and I cry when my naturalized home wages war against my birth home. I am an American. I am also Iraqi, and a Moslawii down to my dialect and my cooking. Continue reading
By Patrick Goodenough • CNSNews.com
Since the Paris terror attacks on November 13, the State Department has admitted 132 Syrian refugees into the United States, and all 132 are Sunni Muslims.
No Christian, Druze, Shi’ite, Alawite, or member of any other religious minority in Syria has been admitted over that period, according to data from the State Department Refugee Processing Center.
The majority of the 132 Syrian refugees permitted to resettle in the U.S. since November 13 (72) are male, the minority female (60). Of the 132 total, 39 (29.5 percent) have been men between the ages of 14 and 50. Continue reading
by Mac Thornberry • RealClearPolitics
The ISIS attack on Paris has been a wake-up call for the world. A network of terrorists exploited weaknesses in Western intelligence networks, border controls, and law enforcement to savagely attack soft targets and inflict devastating casualties. To protect America, Congress has rightly acted on one of these weaknesses and strengthened the screening of Syrian refugees. Paris has more lessons to teach. Increased vetting of refugees is a good first step, but to stop an attack in the United States there are other lessons we must learn, and learn quickly.
First, there are many avenues by which ISIS operatives can come from their training grounds across the globe, including Iraq and Syria, to carry out attacks against the West. Approximately, 30,000 individuals have traveled from other countries to join ISIS, with as many as 5,000 of them from Europe and the United States. Those from Europe do not need a visa to enter the United States, and our northern and southern borders may be a route fighters use to enter the United States. Continue reading
by Matt Barber • Townhall
What was President Obama’s immediate and instinctive response to this month’s Islamic terror attacks in Paris? Did he offer prayers for the families of the slaughtered and vow to wipe out the global cancer that is Islamic Jihad? Did he pledge to come alongside France and work with our wounded European ally until every last Islamic State barbarian is wiped from the face of the earth?
No, America’s eunuch-in-chief preened like a petty peacock, mocking and berating the very Americans he’s sworn to protect and serve. He stated – vomiting the word “Christians” with sanctimonious disgust – that there will be no “religious litmus test” on Syrian refugees, while hypocritically employing a religious litmus test of his own that favors Muslims over Christians by a rate of 97 to 3 percent. Continue reading
An operative working for Islamic State has revealed the terror group has successfully smuggled thousands of covert jihadists into Europe.
By Aaron Brown • Express
“Just wait,” he smiled.
The Islamic State operative spoke exclusively to BuzzFeed on the condition of anonymity and is believed to be the first to confirm plans to infiltrate western countries.
Islamic State, also referred to as IS and ISIS, is believed to be actively smuggling deadly gunmen across the sparsely-guarded 565-mile Turkish border and on to richer European nations, he revealed. Continue reading
by Tim Kane • National Review
Understand that the debate about Syrian refugees in the United States is a political sideshow. It has nothing to do with ending the crisis in Syria itself, nothing to do with helping France and Lebanon fight Jihadi terror, and nothing to do with xenophobia. Should the United States offer refuge to Syrians fleeing the war? Absolutely. But let’s get some perspective.
First, the terror attacks in Paris (and Beirut) represent a global war on Western civilization, not on all humanity. Second, one study found that 13 percent of Syrian refugees have a positive view of ISIS. That fact should chill you. Third, there should be no doubt that ISIS is using the refugee crisis to infiltrate the West (including our allies, France, Germany, and Turkey). That explains fact number four: 53 percent of Americans are opposed to accepting any Syrian refugees here. This is a commonsense response, even if you and I believe it is incorrect. It is shameful for politicians to call this a racist reaction, which is the lowest, commonest trick in the Left’s political playbook. Continue reading
Although the Obama administration currently refuses to temporarily pause its Syrian refugee resettlement program in the United States, the State Department in 2011 stopped processing Iraq refugee requests for six months after the Federal Bureau of Investigation uncovered evidence that several dozen terrorists from Iraq had infiltrated the United States via the refugee program.
After two terrorists were discovered in Bowling Green, Kentucky, in 2009, the FBI began reviewing reams of evidence taken from improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that had been used against American troops in Iraq. Federal investigators then tried to match fingerprints from those bombs to the fingerprints of individuals who had recently entered the United States as refugees: Continue reading
But now he says it would be “un-American.”
by Hannity.com Staff
President Obama has offered some heated rhetoric in response to suggestions that the U.S. might want to reconsider it’s policy as it concerns accepting refugees from Syria. The president has called Republican plans to put a hold on accepting Syrian refugees a “potent recruitment tool” for ISIS and “un-American.”
Just today, the President tweeted out:
Slamming the door in the face of refugees would betray our deepest values. That’s not who we are. And it’s not what we’re going to do.
by Ian Hanchett • Breitbart
Representative Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) argued “we need to temporarily suspend this visa waiver program” between the US and Europe because “it could just be a matter of hours, before someone travels through these different borders, someone who’s become a foreign fighter, who’s been fighting in Syria, and ends up here on the United States soil” on Monday’s broadcast of CNN’s “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.”
Gabbard said, “I think as we watch this manhunt going on across Europe, I’m reminded of a vulnerability and a weakness that must be addressed. We’ve got a visa waiver program that really does not address the vulnerability of the open and porous borders between Syria and Turkey, and that — we’ve seen already how many foreign fighters from across Europe are able to travel through those borders, and are not being tracked and are not being — they’re not able to be addressed going through that. So, we need to temporarily suspend this visa waiver program until the intelligence community gets a handle on this, and exactly how large it is, and what’s going on.” Continue reading
Even Nancy Pelosi isn’t pressuring House Democrats to fall in lock-step with her precious Barack.
According to this, Democrats from the House of Representatives met with the Department of Homeland Security to discuss how DHS was planning to screen Syrian refugees who are coming into the United States. This was in preparation for a vote over a bill introduced in the House that would limit the number of refugees the U.S. takes in and even possibly pause the refugee program for a time. To make a long story short, it didn’t go so well – Continue reading