An Afghan man who was evacuated from the war-torn country to Germany has been detained after he was flagged during a security screening, America’s top military commander in Europe said Thursday.
Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters, the head of US European Command, told reporters during a phone briefing at the Pentagon that the man was “not of a high threat as far as I know.” Wolters also declined to say what brought the man to authorities’ attention, saying the information was “protected.”
“That individual is currently in the appropriate custody of U.S. interagency officials, and Germany has been very, very cooperative, and we are still working his background investigation,” he said.
Wolters did not say when the man was detained, but noted that Ramstein began processing Afghan evacuees on Aug. 20. The general added that 58 Afghans were in need of further screening, but “I anticipate that all 58 will probably clear.”
Wolters explained the initial screening of evacuees takes place soon after they arrive at the base and involves a “biometric and biographic screening so that through DOD [Defense Department] channels, through CBP [Customs and Border Protection] channels, and through FBI channels, we have comprehensively scrutinized their background.” As the Afghans prepare to depart, he added, “they’ll be screened one more time to make sure that from a biometric and biographical standpoint, cleared through DOD, CBP and FBI, that they continue to remain in the green.”
The general added that if someone “pops red, we calmly take them out of the normal processing line, and we put them in a different location so that we can have some isolation and have a little bit of extra time to make sure that everybody is as safe and secure as possible.”
There are currently four American military facilities in Europe where Afghan evacuees are being processed before traveling onto the US: Ramstein Air Base and Rhine Ordnance Barracks in Germany, Naval Air Station Sigonella in Sicily and Naval Station Rota in Cadiz, Spain.
Wolters said the four bases had taken in a total of 38,000 refugees and sent 16,000 on to the US since Aug. 20 — the vast majority from Ramstein Air Base.
Republicans have accused the Biden administration of evacuating thousands of Afghans with no connection to the US from Taliban-controlled territory at the expense of Afghans who assisted US-led NATO forces during their two-decade war with the Taliban — leaving the allies and their families to fend for themselves against the vengeful Islamic fundamentalists.
The Biden administration has yet to provide an official count of so-called Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) holders and applicants who managed to get out of Afghanistan.
“They screwed it up coming and going,” Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), a veteran of the Afghanistan War, told Fox News Thursday night. “We left the vast majority of loyal Afghans who served alongside of our American troops there in country, even if they had a visa approved. Yet we apparently also evacuated tens of thousands of Afghans who had no clear direct connection to American troops, and we really have no idea who they are or ability to vet them.
“So Joe Biden cynically used the plight of those loyal Afghans who served alongside American troops to evacuate tens of thousands of Afghans who had no right to be in the country and is now bringing them into the country to the tune of thousands every day, with no ability to vet whether or not they’re a security threat at all.”