Middle East/North Africa

Republicans say Mayorkas failed to deliver report on evacuated Afghans

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas testifies during a Senate Judiciary Committee oversight hearing of the Homeland Security Department on Tuesday, November 16, 2021.
Greg Nash

Republican senators criticized the Biden administration for failing to deliver a report meant to detail the vetting of more than 78,000 Afghans evacuated amid the chaotic exit of U.S. forces from Afghanistan in August. 

In a statement released Monday, Republican senators said they have yet to receive a report from Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas detailing the agency’s vetting process for Afghans evacuated amid the Taliban’s takeover of the capital city of Kabul that was due on Nov. 30. 

“The report requested by Congress on the composition and vetting of the more than 78,000 [Afghans] evacuated by U.S. forces is more than a month delayed. We need answers, but more than anything, we need [Department of Homeland Security] to fully cooperate,” tweeted Sen. James Risch (R-Idaho), the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

In a letter dated Dec. 21 that was sent to Mayorkas, GOP senators informed the secretary that he had “failed to meet the statutorily mandated deadline” to submit the report to Congress and called it “unacceptable.” 

“This information is necessary for Congress to perform its constitutional oversight duties, which include an understanding of the composition of the Afghan evacuee population located in the United States and any potential national security concerns,” the senators wrote.

The letter was signed by the top Republicans on key Senate committees related to national security, justice, appropriations and the military.

The correspondence was signed by Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee; Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee; Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), vice chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee; James Inhofe (R-Okla.), ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee; and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee.

Mayorkas responded to each of the Senators on Dec. 28, according to a letter obtained by The Hill, expressing agreement with their frustration and ensuring that he had “directed the urgent finalization and submission of the report to Congress.”

A DHS spokesperson responded to a request for comment from The Hill and, while not addressing the status of the report for Congress, provided updated statistics on 76,000 Afghan nationals that have arrived in the U.S. as of January 4.

The Department said that of this number, 53,000 Afghans have joined communities across the U.S. Approximately 22,000 people remain at one of five “safe havens” at military institutions across the U.S.

“As a reminder, all Afghans were vetted prior to arrival and underwent additional screening at the Port of Entry, and they are required to receive critical vaccinations as a condition of their humanitarian parole,” the spokesperson said. 

The mandate for the report was included in an emergency appropriations package that was signed into law by President Biden on Sept. 30.

The law required that the Homeland Security secretary deliver a detailed report on the makeup of those Afghans evacuated by American forces who had arrived in the U.S. and those who are stationed on American military bases abroad awaiting resettlement as well as the category and status of their resettlement requests, meaning the evacuees would fall into the category of refugee or meet the standards for a special immigrant visa (SIV) for work alongside Americans in Afghanistan. 

Biden’s full exit from Afghanistan on Aug. 31 came under intense scrutiny and criticism from both parties in Congress.

Republicans have homed in on Biden’s handling of Afghanistan as a key attack line ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, criticizing the president as responsible for the tragedy of the evacuation.

During the evacuation, a suicide bombing at the Kabul International Airport killed 13 U.S. service members and killed and wounded hundreds of Afghans. 

While the administration said it evacuated more than 124,000 people amid the chaos of the Taliban’s takeover, hundreds of American citizens and tens of thousands of SIV applicants were left behind, raising questions about who was actually evacuated.

Updated: 7:18 p.m.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article did not make clear that Senate Republicans are only raising concern with the delay of the report.

 

Tags Afghan refugees Afghanistan evacuation Alejandro Mayorkas Antony Blinken Chuck Grassley James Inhofe Jim Inhofe Jim Risch Joe Biden Richard Shelby Rob Portman Shelley Moore Capito SIV suicide bombing War in Afghanistan

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