A group of GOP senators is demanding answers from the Biden administration following reports that hundreds of Afghan evacuees are leaving U.S. military bases before being fully vetted.
Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) and 15 other Republicans signed a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on Monday questioning the Biden officials over the administration’s current procedures for holding and vetting thousands of Afghans flown out of Afghanistan in August.
“Today, as many as 65,000 Afghan evacuees flown out of Afghanistan under the President’s orders now reside across eight military bases in the United States,” the senators wrote. “The Biden Administration’s security vetting procedures to clear Afghans entering the country remain unclear and incomplete, and, unless changed, are insufficient to preserve the safety of the American homeland.”
The letter comes after a weekend report claiming that hundreds of Afghan refugees were departing from military bases in the United States without first being fully vetted and cleared. As many as 700, and possibly more, unvetted Afghans have left U.S. military facilities. The Department of Homeland Security said that many of the departing Afghans are U.S. citizens already or had Special Immigrant Visas (SIV).
As Reuters reports:
In a statement, a U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) spokesperson declined to comment on the figures provided to Reuters by sources but said people who had left the bases “generally” had ties to the United States, like family members of friends, and resources to support themselves.
The spokesperson said that in addition, at the outset of the operation many of those evacuated were U.S. citizens, permanent residents or had approved Special Immigrant Visas so were able to depart quickly.
The lawmakers requested that the Biden administration “pause” the relocation and settlement of more Afghan refugees until the vetting and screening process can be reviewed and verified. The senators added that in cases where a refugee had an SIV, they could be released.
“Afghans selected to board American military planes in Kabul did not complete the long established interagency vetting processes shared across the Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration and the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services,” the letter says. “Instead, much of the vetting is occurring on military bases on U.S. soil. Furthermore, the State Department’s inability to facilitate or process SIV applicants on-ground, those that aided American operations in Afghanistan, fails our partners and breaks promises made to those who put themselves and their families at significant risk to aid U.S. efforts in Afghanistan.”
“The cracks in the Administration’s plan are beginning to show,” the letter continued.
The Biden administration has reportedly flagged dozens of Afghan refugees for ties to terror groups in the Middle East. Administration officials processing the refugees have also reportedly sought guidance from the State Department on how to handle instances where Afghan men are introducing young girls as their “brides.”