Representatives from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), FBI and State Department spoke on a call Friday about the status of vetting and relocation efforts for Afghan citizens fleeing the country after the Taliban assumed control of Kabul. The Biden administration has touted how thorough the process is, but until yesterday had remained closed-lipped about the number of incoming evacuees the process has flagged.
“It’s exactly why CBP conducted careful and thorough vetting,” Keri Brady, assistant director at CBP’s National Targeting Center, said during a call in a transcript obtained by ABC News.
The call focused on the vetting process as well as what happens with the evacuees after admission to the United States. The agencies 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 means of entering the U.S. John Cohen, acting head of DHS’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis, highlighted the security concerns involved, especially with the sharp rise of terrorist offshoot ISIS-K.
“We can’t rule out that this could be some type of additional motivator,” said Timothy Langan, assistant director of the Counterterrorism Division.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Friday announced that the DHS has taken lead on the relocation effort as part of a key operation in the final days of the long-winded withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Afghanistan. She claimed that the U.S. had evacuated over 100,000 people from Afghanistan since mid-August.
“Already, DHS has been working closely with agencies across government – including our military, diplomats, intelligence community and law enforcement professionals, and many others – to ensure all Afghans are screened and vetted prior to being allowed into the United States,” Psaki told reporters.
Relocated Afghans will receive extensive medical support as part of the relocation process, including COVID-19 screening and access to a COVID-19 vaccine.
The resettled Afghan citizens could also create tensions within the United States, according to Cohen.
“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 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.”