Another day, another criminal allegation levied against several of our “vetted” Afghan refugees.
At least three Afghan refugees allegedly assaulted a female soldier at a shelter complex at New Mexico’s Fort Bliss, officials with the base said Tuesday. While no charges have been filed, federal authorities are investigating.
“We take the allegation seriously and appropriately referred the matter to the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” a statement from the base read, according to The Associated Press.
In addition to the investigation by the FBI, Rep. Yvette Herrell, a Republican who represents the district Fort Bliss is in, said her office was looking into the alleged crime.
My prayers are with the courageous soldier and her family. This is yet another tragic failure in the vetting process for Afghan nationals. The American people deserve answers.https://t.co/UB8ehTjCwO
— Rep. Yvette Herrell (@RepHerrell) September 24, 2021
Lt. Col. Allie Payne, director of public affairs for Fort Bliss and the 1st Armored Division, announced last week that “a female service member supporting Operation Allies Welcome reported being assaulted on Sept. 19 by a small group of male evacuees at the Doña Ana Complex in New Mexico,” according to KVIA-TV.
A Pentagon official said the soldier had been reporting for duty at roughly midnight when she was attacked by three to four men. The physical injuries were minor and there was no sexual assault involved.
While soldiers operate with a buddy system to avoid attacks like this, the soldier had no accompaniment due to the fact she was just arriving for duty.
Is there a vetting problem with Afghan refugees?
“Since that date, we reiterated the established buddy-system, installed security cameras and monitoring systems with staff, increased lighting, and increased our health and safety patrols in the village,” Payne told the Army Times in an emailed statement.
Fort Bliss officials said the woman was given “appropriate care, counseling and support,” adding security was being tightened at the base.
No charges have yet been filed and the AP noted it remained “unclear if law enforcement had identified the attackers.”
The incident was announced just days after the Justice Department revealed two Afghan refugees were charged with assaults at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin, one having allegedly engaged in a sex act with a minor and another having abused his wife.
“Bahrullah Noori, 20, is charged with attempting to engage in a sexual act with a minor using force against that person, and with three counts of engaging in a sexual act with a minor, with one count alleging the use of force. The indictment alleges that … the victims had not attained the age of 16 years and were at least four years younger than the defendant,” a statement from the Justice Department read.
“Mohammad Haroon Imaad, 32, is charged with assaulting his spouse by strangling and suffocating her. The indictment alleges that the assault occurred on September 7, 2021.”
The release went on to note that Noori could face a mandatory minimum of 30 years if convicted and is potentially facing a life sentence in a U.S. prison. Imaad could face up to 10 years.
Vetting at overseas waypoints also didn’t catch two convicted felons who had previously been deported to Afghanistan — one convicted rapist, one convicted aggravated robber. Both were only discovered when they reached the United States, something which could complicate their re-deportation.
Meanwhile, The Washington Post reported on Sept. 10 that 44 of the refugees airlifted out of Afghanistan were flagged as national security risks. There have been multiple reports of “child brides” evacuated with Afghan men.
These are just the problems with criminal vetting, mind you. Last month, the administration also temporarily halted flights of Afghan refugees to the United States after an outbreak of measles was reported.
White House principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters that “flights into the United States remain paused at the request of the CDC for at least seven additional days … because of recent diagnosed cases of measles among Afghans who recently arrived in the U.S.”
In spite of this, the administration of President Joe Biden continues to defend the vetting process amid the chaotic Afghanistan withdrawal — and for the most part, the media have given them a pass on it.
ABC News opinion piece, Aug. 29: “Amid Afghanistan chaos, refugee vetting process is sound; The focus should be on welcoming refugees, not fearmongering.”
CNN, Sept. 1: “Fact check: Afghans coming to US are not ‘unvetted refugees.’”
MLive, Sept. 23: “Afghan refugees are vetted before coming to Michigan; not all get benefits after arrival.”
Yes, there may be a vetting process in place, although it’s worth questioning how well the refugees are (or even could be, given the paucity of data we likely have) being vetted. For all we know, there were no red flags raised by any of the individuals who were responsible for the attack, assuming they were refugees.
However, we know two things that should frighten us deeply. The first thing we know is that, amid the tens of thousands of refugees that have been evacuated from Afghanistan to the United States, there have been both a number of security threats and alleged criminals among them.
The second thing we know is that we don’t know a whole lot about who we evacuated. There’s no amount of fact-checks or opinion pieces that excoriate the right for expressing any concern about the quality of vetting which will erase these unsettling bedrock realities.
Granted, it’s entirely possible the extent of our unfortunate discoveries about the refugees we evacuated will be limited to the initial period after the withdrawal. Don’t count on it.