House Committee on Oversight and Reform Ranking Member James Comer, R-Ky., called Wednesday for Biden administration officials to brief lawmakers on their efforts to vet Afghan refugees amid concerns that bad actors could seek to exploit chaotic withdrawal operations to enter the United States.
Comer detailed his concerns in letters to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Secretary of State Tony Blinken. His request for a briefing came as the Biden administration scrambles to evacuate thousands of people still seeking to leave Afghanistan before President Biden’s Aug. 31 withdrawal deadline.
“Our country owes a moral obligation to those who put themselves at great personal risk to provide substantial assistance to coalition forces in Afghanistan. We therefore must work to ensure those individuals safe passage out of Afghanistan,” Comer wrote in the letters. “It is no secret that terrorists and other bad actors will always seek to exploit any and all weaknesses in border security and vetting of foreign nationals seeking to enter the United States.”
“In the chaotic situation left in the wake of the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, we are particularly concerned that terrorists and others who wish to harm the United States may seek to infiltrate the country disguised as those who provided assistance to coalition forces in Afghanistan,” Comer added.
Biden and other administration officials have repeatedly stated that the Afghan allies evacuated from the country undergo a thorough vetting process. The process includes security screening from multiple federal agencies, including the FBI and the National Counterterrorism Center, as well as biometric screening.
The president addressed concerns during an address to the nation on Thursday, noting that U.S. officials were “thorough security screening in the intermediate stops they’re making for anyone who is not a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident of the United States.”
“Anyone arriving in the United States will have undergone a background check,” Biden added.
As of early Wednesday morning, the U.S. military and allies had evacuated approximately 87,900 people since the end of July, according to the White House.
Biden has been adamant that the impending U.S. troop withdrawal will not impact the country’s ability to combat terrorist threats that may arise from Afghanistan. The Taliban’s lightning takeover of the country prompted fears that al Qaeda could regain a foothold in the country.
Comer said the “integrity of our immigration system is paramount” as administration officials work to complete the evacuation mission.
“Those who are eligible for immigration benefits should receive them, while those who are not – especially those who may be inadmissible for security and related grounds – should be screened out,” Comer added.