The United States is on high alert following the mass evacuation from Afghanistan and devastating attack in Kabul this week that killed US service members and scores of Afghans.
The Department of Homeland Security is tracking three primary threats, including whether individuals abroad in Afghanistan, who are associated with ISIS or al Qaeda, could use the relocation process as a way to enter the US.
“To counteract that, there’s an extensive screening and vetting process that is in place for those who are being relocated to the United States,” DHS Intelligence chief John Cohen
From a DHS perspective, the second significant security threat for the US is whether people already in the US, who may be inspired by narratives associated with al Qaeda, ISIS or other foreign terrorist groups.
The ability to detect threats from homegrown violent extremists represents a challenge for officials because there may not be direct intelligence prior to an act of violence being committed.
The third threat concern, from an immediate perspective, comes from individuals who are inspired or motivated to commit violence based on their connection with a domestic violent extremist narrative.
Among anti-government and White supremacist groups, several narrative trends have emerged on online platforms related to concerns that the relocation of Afghans to the US would lead to a loss of control and authority by the White race
SCREENING AFGHAN REFUGEES
All Afghans heading to the US are vetted against classified and unclassified information. Some of those relocated to the US are subject to secondary screening, which includes interviews by the FBI.
There are “a very small number of individuals who’ve been flagged for concern,” said an official with the National Targeting Center, who appeared to be referring to people overseas at so-called lily pad transfer point locations, like Doha, Qatar.
Afghans fleeing through Kabul airport have been transported to several overseas locations where US Customs and Border Protection personnel are stationed. There most evacuees are expected to provide biographic and biometric information, which is checked against US databases.
Once these subjects are determined to be “green” they are pushed ahead to be manifested for US bound flights.
There is additional screening and vetting when the evacuees arrive in the US, which has been at Washington Dulles International Airport, but is expanding to Philadelphia soon.
For those who fail primary screening upon arrival to the US, CBP conducts secondary screening that includes FBI support for interviews as needed. At this moment officials have not said who would happen to people who fail to pass the secondary screening.
The FBI is supporting the US government’s interagency efforts on relocation efforts and is involved in reviewing information on arriving Afghans in order to identify potential national security or public safety concerns.
“We don’t have any specific intelligence regarding foreign terrorist organizations using this as an opportunity. We cannot discount that it is a possibility,” the FBI official said, calling for the US to remain vigilant.