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Dozens of potentially dangerous Afghans brought to US, most can’t be found: Pentagon audit

Evacuees wait to board a Boeing C-17 Globemaster III at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 30, 2021. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Victor Mancillal)
February 18, 2022

A new Department of Defense audit of the U.S. military-led civilian evacuation from Afghanistan last summer found that dozens of potentially dangerous Afghan individuals were brought to the U.S. and now most of them can’t be found.

In an audit report published Tuesday and publicly released Thursday, the Department of Defense’s Inspector General said the DoD’s National Ground Intelligence Center (NGIC) had identified “50 Afghan personnel in the United States with information in DoD records that would indicate potentially significant security concerns.”

Adding to the security concern, most of those Afghan individuals who have been flagged for security concerns can no longer be found after being brought to the U.S. The inspector general said NGIC tried to track down 31 such Afghan individuals who were linked to derogatory security information. “Of those 31, only 3 could be located.”

The inspector general said NGIC reached out DoD and U.S. Government personnel who were located at, or who had oversight of all temporary housing facilities for individuals relocated in the U.S. During the evacuation from Kabul, Afghan evacuees were brought to eight different DoD installations, including Fort Bliss, Texas; Joint Base McGuire‑Dix‑Lakehurst, New Jersey; Fort McCoy, Wisconsin; Camp Atterbury, Indiana; Fort Pickett, Virginia; Fort Lee, Virginia; Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia; and Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico.

Upon realizing that most of the flagged Afghan evacuees could not be located, the inspector general report states NGIC personnel used “informal reporting procedures” to notify the DoD and other U.S. government agencies of the security risks. The inspector general warned that such informal procedures do not ensure consistent and timely reporting.

“Not being able to locate Afghan evacuees with derogatory information quickly and accurately could pose a security risk to the United States,” the report states. “In addition, the U.S. Government could mistakenly grant ineligible Afghan evacuees with derogatory information from the DoD [Automated Biometric Identification System] database [special immigrant visa] or parolee status.”

The lapse in vetting may be due in part to NGIC personnel not having had access to all DoD data prior to Afghan evacuees arriving in the U.S. For example, evacuees were not vetted with the National Counter‑Terrorism Center (NCTC). The agreements NGIC has with some foreign partners also prohibit them from sharing some data with non-DoD agencies that could have helped them review the data.

NGIC developed a workaround to compare data with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), but the agreement between the NGIC and the DoD expired in December before all Afghan evacuees could be fully reviewed.

The report’s findings have already begun to bolster criticisms that began during the August evacuation from Kabul, that the vetting process had been insufficient.

Following the report’s release, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said, “Following the Biden administration’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, I expressed concern about the administration’s lackluster efforts to screen evacuees flooding from the terrorist safe haven. According to a new report by the Pentagon watchdog, the situation is far worse than we thought.”

Grassley also said, “The relevant agencies ought to rapidly implement the OIG’s recommendations. Congress should not even begin to consider proposals related to sweeping immigration status changes for evacuees, such as an Afghan Adjustment Act, until the Biden administration, at the very least, guarantees the integrity of and fully responds to long-standing congressional oversight requests.”