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US humiliation abroad and open borders at home are a lethal mix

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Within hours of the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, the Pentagon issued a warning that terrorist networks could quickly gain a global operational base in that country. As we approach the 20th anniversary of 9/11, it is worth remembering that al Qaeda used Taliban-controlled Afghanistan as a base of operation in the years leading up to its lethal strike against the U.S. homeland. 

The new regime in Kabul has reneged on its assurances of respect for human rights, women’s rights and free passage for those seeking to escape the Sharia hellhole the Taliban is imposing. As they rolled across Afghanistan, the Taliban freed some 5,000 prisoners who had been held at the Bagram Air Base, which the U.S. abandoned. In addition to the Taliban’s fighters, the hardened terrorists turned loose from Bagram reportedly include some associated with ISIS and al Qaeda.

President Biden, who only a month ago foresaw no circumstances under which Kabul 2021 would resemble Saigon 1975, has assured Americans that despite the takeover of Afghanistan by a terrorist organization, we have “counterterrorism over-the-horizon capability that will allow us to keep our eyes firmly fixed on the direct threats to the United States in the region, and act quickly and decisively if needed.” Even his Secretary of Defense apparently was not all that reassured by the president’s words, and neither should the rest of us be.

Biden refused to heed the warnings of intelligence agencies and military advisers about the dire consequences of a precipitous withdrawal from Afghanistan. American prestige, influence and credibility around the world have been dealt a severe blow. But those costs pale in comparison to the price that will be paid by Afghans who are now doomed to live under the thumb of a medieval regime in possession of modern weaponry. If Biden ignores the warnings of those same intelligence and military experts about the potential for resulting terrorist threats, it may be the American people who pay the price next time.

The vastly greater threat we now face as a result of the fall of Afghanistan comes at a time when our domestic defenses against terrorists striking our homeland have been greatly diminished by policies the Biden administration has implemented regarding our borders. In light of the Pentagon’s warning, the southern border crisis — already a public health threat, humanitarian disaster and national disgrace — presents an increased threat to the security of our homeland.

As a matter of his sworn duty to protect the nation, the president must, at a minimum, restore the status quo he inherited at the border on Jan. 20. That includes restoring the Migrant Protection Protocol, as a federal court has ordered his administration to do. That protocol required all migrants seeking to enter an asylum plea in the United States to wait in Mexico until an initial hearing on their claims can be conducted.

The administration must end catch-and-release policies that result in many illegal border-crossers being set free in the United States. Doing so would dramatically diminish the incentive for economic migrants to crash the border, freeing up the U.S. Border Patrol and other immigration law enforcement agencies to protect Americans against the sorts of people the Pentagon worries may be headed our way.

The Biden administration must also ensure that the resettlement of refugees from Afghanistan has a regional focus, working closely with surrounding nations and governments to help those fleeing the Taliban. The United States has an obligation to protect Afghans who aided our military forces over the past 20 years by opening the door to resettlement under the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program. We must honor our commitments to those who undoubtedly would be slaughtered by the Taliban; however, the SIV program must not be abused.

Clearly, the vetting of legitimate SIV applicants who deserve to be resettled in the United States cannot occur on Afghan soil. Nor should it be carried out on U.S. soil. Amid the chaos in Kabul, it is inevitable that many who are airlifted out will not qualify for the SIV program created for those who partnered with us in the war, and it’s likely that these flights may include people who pose a danger to the United States and our allies.

The United States military maintains dozens of bases throughout the Middle East. The first stop for those airlifted out of Afghanistan should be at one of these extraterritorial bases for processing. Those who are approved for SIVs after thorough vetting could be moved on to the United States, or another country of their choosing, for resettlement; those who are not approved could be repatriated or referred to international agencies; and those who have ties to terrorist organizations could be dealt with as we lawfully deal with terrorists.

The Biden administration was woefully unprepared for the consequences of its hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan. Likewise, the Biden team apparently wasn’t ready for the crisis at the U.S.border, which Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas now acknowledges “we’re going to lose and … is unsustainable.” The administration was unprepared for the speed with which the Taliban swept across Afghanistan, and unprepared to get people and equipment out before they fell into the hands of the Taliban. 

The administration must not be unprepared for the looming threat of terrorism, clearly articulated by the Pentagon. Under the circumstances, failure is simply not an option.

Ira Mehlman is media director at Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), which examines immigration trends and advocates for policy changes.

Tags Alejandro Mayorkas Biden immigration policy Joe Biden Taliban US border crisis Withdrawal of United States troops from Afghanistan

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