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Biden admin directed Afghan evac flights ‘fill seats’ without vetting, Sen. Hawley says

A U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III safely transported 823 Afghan citizens from Hamid Karzai International Airport, Aug. 15, 2021. (U.S. Air Force courtesy photo)
October 27, 2021

An email sent during the U.S. civilian evacuation from Afghanistan and labeled as a “Presidential Directive” described an order under President Joe Biden’s administration to “fill out” evacuation flights “even without vetting,” according to Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) this week.

In a tweet and during a Senate hearing on Tuesday, Hawley cited an email apparently written by Gregory Floyd on Wednesday, August 18, that contained the directive. Floyd was the Consul General at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul at the time of the evacuation efforts.

The alleged email from Floyd states:

Team,

President Biden phoned Ambassador Wilson with the following directive about who to clear to board evacuation flights.

1. Anyone with a valid form of ID should be given permission to go on a plane if that person plausibly falls into the categories we will evacuate: U.S. Citizens and LPRs plus their immediate families, LES plus their immediate families, those entitled to an SIV and Afghans at risk.

2. Families with women and children should be allowed through and held to fill out the planes.

3. Total inflow to the U.S. must exceed the number of seats available. Err on the side of excess.”

This guidance provides clear discretion and direction to fill seats and to provide special consideration for women and children when we have seats. I expect that C-17 volume will increase.

On Tuesday, Hawley tweeted, “NEWS: This email was shared w/ me by an American official present in Afghanistan during the evacuation who was shocked by Administration’s failure to vet Afghans before they were evacuated. Email details orders from Joe Biden to fill up the planes – even without vetting.”

Hawley brought up the email and asked Under Secretary for Defense Policy Colin Kahl to address it during a Tuesday hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“Are you aware of any guidance from the White House to evacuate Afghans who might ‘plausibly’ fill out these categories to ‘fill seats’ regardless of whether the passengers were actually eligible or not and to ‘err on the side of excess,” Hawley asked Kahl.

Kahl said he couldn’t speak to the specific email Hawley cited but said the U.S. evacuation efforts prioritized “first and foremost” American citizens, lawful permanent residents, green cardholders locally employed staff of the State Department and “others with documents.”

Kahl then said that as U.S. forces came in to help with evacuation efforts, “We had excess capacity to bring people out, so what the president was signaling was if there other — clearly Afghans at risk, that we can safely bring into the airport and get off the airfield, we should do that.”

Hawley’s questioning about the vetting process comes after several Afghan evacuees have been charged with assaults since arriving in the U.S. One Afghan evacuated to Fort McCoy, Wisconsin has been charged “attempting to engage in a sexual act with a minor using force against that person,” as well as three counts of engaging in a sexual act with a minor. Another Afghan evacuee was charged with assaulting his spouse by means of strangling and suffocation. A female soldier assisting in refugee resettlement efforts at Fort Bliss, New Mexico was also assaulted by an unknown number of male Afghan evacuees in September.

“What I’m driving at is, we know that we’ve got major problems of vetting of the people who were brought to this country, who were evacuated and brought to this country,” Hawley said on Tuesday. “This email seems to indicate the administration was saying ‘just fill up the planes, I mean if they plausibly fall into a category, put them on a plane.’ Is that wrong?”

Kahl responded that vetting was always on the minds of those in the Biden administration during the evacuations but that the vetting process was not taking place at the Kabul airport where flights were departing Afghanistan. Kahl said vetting instead took place in third-country locations like Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Germany.

Kahl said vetting consisted of collecting biometric and biographic data, which was then screened through databases kept by the FBI, CBP and other agencies.

“Only people who cleared that vetting, so they didn’t have contacts with the Taliban or the Haqqani [Network] or Al Qaeda or ISIS were to be manifest to be brought to the United States,” Kahl said. “And people who required further processing were not brought to the United States.”

Hawley then asked whether the vetting process involved any in-person interviews, to which Kahl responded that those who had missing or derogatory information come up during the initial database screening process were given subjected to further vetting interviews in third-country locations. Kahl said there may have been additional instances where people brought to the U.S. were subjected to additional vetting measures “but I would direct you to the [Department of Homeland Security – DHS] for a full accounting of that.”

“Oh I’m talking to the DHS, believe me,” Hawley said, “And what DHS says is there was never any in-person vetting done anywhere” whether in third-country locations or the U.S.”