As American citizens and their families remain stranded in Afghanistan, the Biden administration has announced that it will eventually get around to vetting the tens of thousands of refugees who were instead evacuated from that war-torn country.
Speaking to reporters in Qatar, Secretary of State Antony Blinken appeared to admit that President Joe Biden’s focus was not entirely on getting Americans out ahead of a full Taliban takeover when he said that the administration instead concentrated “on getting as many individuals out of Kabul” first before returning to “focus on a vetting process,” Fox News reported.
“In our effort to get as many people out as fast as we can while we had the airport functioning, we focused on doing just that,” Blinken said.
He added that officials within the State Department are “doing accountings on the back end as people arrive in the United States,” while also suggesting that the administration still does not know how many refugees were evacuated.
“My expectation is we will have a breakdown of the numbers of people who left Afghanistan, including not just American citizens, but green card holders, SIV applicants, SIV visa holders, Afghans at risk, those eligible for P-1 and P-2 visas,” Blinken continued.
“All of that will be forthcoming in the days and weeks ahead as we’re able to break down the numbers,” he added.
After the last U.S. flight out of Afghanistan went wheels-up at the international airport in Kabul, signaling the withdrawal of the last U.S. troops from the country following a 20-year conflict, the administration said that counterterrorism and intelligence officials were busy “working around the clock” to “vet all Afghans” before letting them travel to the United States.
Officials also said that Afghans with Special Immigrant Visas, or SIVs, as well as those Afghans determined to be vulnerable were taken to way stations in third countries throughout Asia and Europe that said they’d “serve as transit hubs” ahead of being subjected to “robust security screening and flying to the U.S.”
The administration added that the process of screening Afghan refugees involves “biometric and biographic security reviews conducted by our intelligence, law enforcement, and counterterrorism professionals.”
But critics of the administration’s rapid evacuation of refugees have said it will be difficult if not impossible to vet all of them or even most of them because of the lack of infrastructure for such identity checks in their home country.
Also, normally the vetting process for refugees can take as long as two years.
And, at least one lawmaker has said the administration is currently bringing unvetted Afghan refugees into the U.S. already.
“It appears the Biden administration is doubling down by bringing people who are unvetted into our country,” Rep. Tom Tiffany (R-Wis.), told Fox News’ Tucker Carlson last week.
And on Tuesday, Sen. Tom Cotton, Arkansas Republican and U.S. Army combat vet, voiced new concerns about the process of vetting these refugees, telling “Fox & Friends” he is “incredibly worried.”
Nevertheless, Fox News noted that a “well-placed diplomatic source” said any refugees that are flagged during the vetting process will be taken to Camp Bondsteel, the U.S. Army’s installation in Kosovo.
But the U.S. can only hold those refugees at that base for a year, the source said, per an agreement with the host government.
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