'Very small number' of Afghan evacuees flagged for concern by CBP at bases around the world

CBP has deployed resources to conduct vetting and screening on bases.

August 27, 2021, 7:22 PM

U.S. Customs and Border Protection said a "very small number" of Afghan evacuees have been "flagged for concern" during their vetting and screening at military bases around the world.

"It's exactly why CBP conducted careful and thorough vetting," Keri Brady, the assistant director at CBP's National Targeting Center, told law enforcement leaders around the country Friday on a call, a copy of which was obtained by ABC News.

CBP has deployed resources to overseas bases where Afghans are being transported to conduct vetting and screening using biometrics, along with counterparts from the FBI.

Representatives from the Department of Homeland Security, FBI and the State Department spoke on the call about the administration's handling of Afghan nationals once they are in the United States.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at Friday's briefing that DHS would take the lead in helping Afghans settle in the U.S.

Officials on the call also detailed different threat scenarios that authorities are tracking domestically and abroad.

DHS said it is tracking people abroad who could use the relocation process as a way to get into the U.S.

A U.S. Marine provides security for evacuees boarding a U.S. Air Force C-17 at Hamid Karzai International Airport, in Afghanistan, Aug. 24, 2021.
Taylor Crul/U.S. Air Force

John Cohen, the acting head of DHS's Office of Intelligence and Analysis, said they are monitoring "whether individuals who are abroad or ISIS elements could use the relocation process as a way to introduce operatives intending to conduct an attack within the homeland." In an effort to "counteract" this threat, Cohen said there is an extensive screening process.

Timothy Langan, the assistant director of the Counterterrorism Division, echoed Cohen's concerns, saying they "can't rule out" extremists trying to use the evacuations to come to the U.S.

"We [also] can't rule out that this could be some type of additional motivator," Langan explained.

The DHS is also monitoring if people in the U.S. are inspired by "narratives associated with al-Qaida, ISIS or other foreign terrorist group, and whether they would view the events occurring in Afghanistan as an opportunity to engage in violence here at home," Cohen said.

Cohen told law enforcement leaders that there are domestic violent extremists lashing out because Afghans are coming to the U.S.

"In our analysis of online platforms commonly used by anti-government white supremacist and other domestic violent extremist organizations and groups, we are seeing several narrative trends emerge having to do with concerns [about] the relocation of Afghans to the United States," Cohen said. "In it is an element of the great replacement concept, or a concept that would lead to a loss of control and authority by the white race, and there are concerns that those narratives may incite violent activities directed at immigrant communities, certain faith communities or even those who are relocated to the United States."

Cohen also explained on the call that some extremists see what the Taliban did as a "success."

"In those narrative streams, there have been commentary focusing on potential acts of violence directed at U.S. government, law enforcement and others who are considered to be symbols of the current government structure," Cohen explained.

In this July 1, 2019, file photo, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection patch is seen on the arm of a U.S. Border Patrol agent in Mission, Texas.
Loren Elliott/Reuters, FILE

Langan said the FBI stood up a command post at its headquarters to detect any "potential national security or public safety concerns," and added they are working 24/7.

The State Department has relocated over 100,000 individuals from Afghanistan and "many" in the last three weeks, according to Larry Bartlett, the agency's director of refugee resettlement.

Officials also provided more details about the process of coming to the United States, saying in addition to opening up Washington Dulles International Airport and Philadelphia International Airport they expect to open more airports to Afghans soon. They did not go into further detail.

When Afghan evacuees arrive at a military base, they are tested for COVID-19, and if they test positive are quarantined on base. They are tested again once they arrive into the U.S., the acting associate director of Field Operations at United States Citizenship and Immigration Services said.

Upon arrival into the U.S., they are given the option to get a COVID-19 vaccine as well.

Related Topics