Fort Pickett Evacuees Controversy Indicates US' Afghan Pull-Out Wasn't Planned at All, Observers Say
18:04 GMT 10.09.2021 (Updated: 16:35 GMT 08.12.2022)
Afghan evacuees have free rein of Fort Pickett where they are held and have even been allowed to leave despite not having completed the vetting process, according to GOP Rep. Mark Green. Ex-Pentagon analyst Karen Kwiatkowski, journalist Daniel Lazare and conservative activist Lisa Haven have discussed conflicting reports from the military base.
The majority of Afghans stationed at Fort Pickett, a Virginia Army National Guard installation, are not interpreters who assisted the US military during the 20 year-long war, Rep. Mark Green found out, expressing concerns that the US State Department has failed to provide a concrete list of exactly who had been brought to American soil.
"My source has made shocking allegations, including multiple incidents of sexual assault, and several evacuees have been picked up by Uber drivers without any permission from authorities—or being cleared to leave," Green wrote
to Secretary of State Antony Blinken on 8 September, adding that the soldiers tasked with guarding the evacuees are unarmed and have no authority to stop or arrest them.
State Department & Pentagon Share Blame
It appears that neither the military nor the State Department processed or identified Afghan evacuees before taking them away, suggests former Department of Defence veteran analyst Karen Kwiatkowski, a retired US Air Force lieutenant colonel. According to her, this situation is in part due to the poor planning of the evacuations from Kabul.
While the Pentagon and the State Department equally share the blame for the flawed withdrawal, the ex-DoD analyst does not rule out that the Pentagon itself has withheld or ignored the need to fully share the information about evacuees with the State Department.
Now soldiers at Fort Pickett are apparently "taking the heat for not having processed these people, and not having procedures to control their movements, while the public is blaming the State Department, and the unpopular Secretary Blinken," Kwiatkowski remarks.
'The Greatest Security Risk'
Having sent his request to Blinken, Rep. Mark Green then appeared on "The Ingraham Angle" on Thursday, citing the security issue: "This is one of the greatest security risks this nation has ever had and this president and this State Department don't seem to care," he said, referring to the allegedly unvetted Afghan evacuees at Fort Pickett.
The US is using eight military bases to temporarily accommodate 50,000 Afghan evacuees with tens of thousands already having arrived in the country. However, conservative observers are raising alarm over the vetting process, and drawing parallels between the Afghan evacuations and the influx of migrants through the US southern border accompanied by the hike in human and drug trafficking.
"In terms of danger to the US, I think that the comparison to a largely unprotected Southern border may be valid," Kwiatkowski deems. "Most people coming into our country unvetted are not threats — but a small number may indeed be."
The former DoD analyst notes that the existence of an established Afghan community in nearby DC and its Virginia and Maryland suburbs is "certainly going to be a temptation for any Afghan refugee in Fort Pickett."
"When you cram 823 people into a C-17 cargo plane, as the US military did in mid-August, you really have little idea who's clambering on board," echoes Daniel Lazare, an independent journalist, author, and writer. "It could be a young man whose dream is to go to the University of Chicago and become a free-market economist or an al-Qaeda* trainee."
Fort Pickett and Mazar-i-Sharif Controversies
To add to the ongoing controversy, a group of presumably American citizens and Afghan allies remain stuck in Mazar-i-Sharif
, northern Afghanistan. In recent days a "dangerous" blame game has been underway with "lawmakers, the State Department, activists and the Taliban* pointing fingers at one another," according
Anthony Blinken "can't evacuate US citizens held hostage by the Taliban
but yet allows unvetted Afghans free access to the domestic US," says Lisa Haven, the co-founder of the media outlet Restricted Republic.
"The key to this entire situation lies in one simple question," Haven notes. "Why would the State Department not allow private US planes to land in the US due to an inability to 'verify flight passenger manifests' yet not provide the Pentagon access to refugee manifests to verify Afghans."
Meanwhile, Army Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has previously asserted to the press that Afghan evacuees are going through several levels of databases before being brought to the US.
For its part, WRIC-TV, an ABC-affiliated television station from Virginia, reported
on Thursday that Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger was the first member of Congress to visit Fort Pickett. Spanberger told the media outlet that every Afghan that arrives at the base goes through security checks and biographical screenings to identify them.
When asked whether some refugees had actually left the base, the congresswoman responded: "What was clarified is that there have been a number of families and individuals who have left but those are folks who are actual US citizens who escaped out of Kabul with other evacuees."
Blackstone Mayor Billy Coleburn argued while speaking to the press that the evacuees are not detainees or prisoners and that if they refuse to go through the proper protocol, "they forfeit their right to get a visa."
"It appears that nothing about this withdrawal from Afghanistan was well planned, or planned at all," says Karen Kwiatkowski. "I believe it is because no one involved could bring themselves to admit it was a defeat, the real end of an era, and a fantastically expensive waste of blood and treasure."
*The Taliban and al-Qaeda are terrorist organisations banned in Russia and many other states.