The Biden administration is mulling plans to send some Afghan evacuees at a U.S. military base in Kosovo back to Afghanistan should they not pass a vigorous vetting process to come stateside, CNN reported.
The option is one of several being considered by U.S. officials who have not yet developed a wider plan for where to resettle Afghans who do not pass the U.S. security clearance process, three unidentified U.S. officials familiar with the matter told the network.
About 70,000 Afghan evacuees have come to the United States following the chaotic scramble to evacuate U.S. forces and vulnerable populations from Afghanistan in the last weeks of August. Tens of thousands of other evacuees were sent to sites across Europe and the Middle East to be processed before moving on to the U.S. or a partner third country.
Administration officials have made clear that all Afghans looking to come to the United States must pass a security screening and vetting process and receive necessary vaccinations before they are permitted to enter.
But those whose cases required more intense vetting are being transferred to Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo, with roughly 200 individuals, including family members, now at the base, a source told CNN. The administration and Kosovo’s government have an agreement to house evacuees there for up to a year.
A source familiar with the situation told The Hill that should an individual at Bondsteel not pass vetting, they could then choose to go back to Afghanistan and would not be sent back to the country against their will.
Before such a move there would be a conversation to examine whether there was a third country where they could travel instead.
Sending evacuees back to Afghanistan without their permission would be a departure from the administration’s previous promise to transfer such individuals to a third country and raise human rights concerns and legal questions.
US. officials have also been very vague about which countries would then take those individuals.
Should the administration choose to send those that don’t pass vetting back to Afghanistan, it would be a departure from its previous promise to send such individuals to a third country and raise human rights concerns and legal questions.
U.S. officials have also been very vague about which countries would then take those individuals.
While nobody sent to Kosovo has yet been deemed unable to enter the United States, some U.S. officials and lawmakers worry that should an individual not pass clearances there are limited options for them. They could, for example, be stuck on a base long-term.
One senior administration official told CNN that the security flags that have led to people being transferred to Bondsteel are usually not those “that can be resolved within hours or even within days.”
The U.S. has not sent anyone back to Afghanistan, but the official said they “would leave all such possibilities on the table, which includes the fact that you might have evacuees for whom that is their preferred destination if the United States is not an option.”
The State Department did not immediately respond to questions from The Hill.
Updated at 2:47 p.m.