As thousands of Afghans are being processed to be resettled in the United States, over two dozen were flagged in the security vetting process and have been secretly transported to an American base in Kosovo, according to a new report.
Around 30 Afghan evacuees, along with about 170 family members, have been transported to Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo within the past six weeks, the Associated Press reported, citing unnamed U.S. officials.
The current number of evacuees at the base is unknown, as new people are arriving and others are leaving after the flagged security issues are resolved.
According to the report, the government of Kosovo — a small Balkan nation — agreed to let the Afghans stay in the territory for a year.
A US official told the outlet that the refugees transported are not technically detained, however they are not free to leave the base, under conditions set by the Kosovo government. They were evacuated out of Afghanistan by the US but raised security concerns during one of the check points while in transit. Some of the issues flagged have to do with missing documents.
The official spoke with the Associated Press under anonymity as they were not authorized to publicly discuss security and diplomatic issues.
Many Republican lawmakers have raised questions over the US’ screening system in recent weeks, noting concerns about potential security threats entering the country.
National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne has defended the system.
“The fact that some people have been flagged by our counterterrorism, intelligence, or law enforcement professionals for additional screening shows our system is working,” she said.
The unnamed official revealed that the refugees sent to Camp Bondsteel require “significant further consideration,” before they are allowed to enter the U.S. After analysis, some have been deemed “suitable for onward travel to the United States,” while others cases are ongoing. The official did not reveal how many taken to Kosovo have been allowed entry into the U.S.
None of the flagged individuals have been sent back to Afghanistan. Anyone who does not get approved for entry into the U.S. will have their fate decided on an “individualized” basis, according to the report, meaning some could be resettled in another country.
Camp Bondsteel is closed to outsiders, including lawyers.
Human rights advocates have slammed the lack of access.
“There is not real access to the camp. THere’s no public or independent scrutiny of what happens in there,” Jelena Sesar, a researcher for Amnesty International, said.
“We are obviously concerned,” Sesar told the Associated Press. “What really happens with these people, especially the people who don’t pass security vetting? Are they going to be detained? Are they going to have any access to legal assistance? And what is the plan for them? Is there any risk of them ultimately being returned to Afghanistan?”
Over 66,000 Afghans have arrived in the U.S. since mid-August, around 55,000 of those posted at U.S. military bases across the country. There, the thousands of refugees continue to undergo vetting processes. Around 5,000 people who were evacuated remain at transit points across the Middle East and Europe, per the Department of Homeland Security.
The Biden administration has been slammed for its evacuation efforts of Americans and Afghans amid and following the US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan — particularly for being unable to remove everyone who wanted to leave the country and not discerning between Afghan allies and Afghans who just wanted to exit the country following the Taliban takeover.
On Friday, the State Department informed congressional staffers it has been in contact with 368 Americans who remain in Afghanistan — 178 of whom want to leave, a substantially higher number than the Biden administration previously said were left behind.
Administration officials previously stated that roughly 100 Americans who wanted to be evacuated remained in the area.
The official number of Afghan allies left behind has not been released, but some organizations working to resettle them in the US have said the number could be as high as 75,000.