Up to 100 Suspected Terrorists Rescued During Afghanistan Evacuation, Official Warns
Afghan evacuees flown out of war-torn Kabul are on intelligence agency watch lists
Up to 100 of the evacuees rescued from Afghanistan are suspected terrorists who are on intelligence agency watch lists, a top U.S. official has warned.
The United States government official issued the warning on Tuesday as it was revealed that one passenger flown out to Qatar has potential ties to ISIS.
The Afghans in the evacuations are potential candidates for Special Immigration Visas (SIV).
However, several were flagged as possible matches to intel agency terror watch lists by the Defense Department's Automated Biometric Identification System, an official with the U.S. government told Defense One.
Another official told the outlet that the ISIS-linked Afghan was detected by security screeners at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar after they were rescued from Kabul Airport.
6,000 Afghans have been taken to the airbase so far.
"Intelligence, law enforcement, and counterterrorism professionals are conducting screening and security vetting for all SIV applicants and other vulnerable Afghans before they are allowed into the United States," a State Department spokesperson told The Daily Mail.
"We are surging resources to evaluate each case and process these as efficiently as possible to protect homeland security."
The State Department declined to confirm whether any immigrants have been flagged for having ties to ISIS, and it is unclear if they were processed before or after leaving Kabul.
The Afghan evacuees are being screened against law enforcement databases using biometric data including facial recognition, iris scans, and fingerprints by agents with U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP).
Officials told Defense One there "certainly" have been some Afghans who triggered alerts - but, in most cases, they have already been cleared after further screening.
However, the CBP agents are facing challenges in screening the incredible number of SIV applicants such as using old vetting systems that "could not integrate" with the Defense Department's biometric database information, Defense One reported.
"CBP on the ground has old tech and they don't know how to use it, integrate it, and there's not enough people to process all of the evacuees," an official said.
The technology can take up to an hour for the system to determine whether someone is a potential security risk - and officials maintained that the system is working, but slowly.
The officials who spoke with Defense One noted that most of the security alerts have been flagged at Al Udeid, but that they "can't rule it out" that alerts are happening at other temporary bases.
Another military-focused publication, Stars and Stripes, noted that service members at Al Udeid are feeling the toll from the mass evacuation of Afghanistan - one of the largest military operations in history.
"Been doing this 12-16 (hours), no days off since the s--t hit the fan," one Facebook user wrote on a page for Al Udeid residents.
"Now I love the fact I'm helping people and I wouldn't know what to do if I was in (their) shoes, but I just want some real rest ... cause I'm shutting down slowly. ...
"I'm mf TIRED ok."
One American worker at the base told Stars and Stripes he worked 22-hour days for three days straight, which included 10 hours a day of volunteering.
Soldiers explained that there are not enough translators, and ice to keep water cool was running low despite scorching 120-degree temperatures, Stars and Stripes reported.
The outlet noted that the airbase has become so full of evacuees that one plane circled overhead for two hours before it could land.
"To give these people a new chance at life was worth it," the person wrote.
"Guys in (Al Udeid) are still swamped right now."