The US plans to send at least two Afghan evacuees back to Kosovo from the country due to security concerns raised after arriving at a US airport, two sources familiar with the US evacuation said.
Afghans are under further scrutiny in Kosovo.
However, the sources warn that federal officials act out of caution, and just because a person is tagged doesn’t mean they are a terrorist or pose a threat. Something on their profile – their name, background, or a number on their cell phone – raised concerns that sources suggest they will not be allowed to stay in the US until additional verification is in.
“Many people were moved very quickly and the intelligence services have worked hard to assess whether any of them pose a threat,” said a senior federal police officer. “Some of the screening takes place while they are abroad, and some of it takes place here … We will not allow people to be deliberately released into the community for having unsolved derogatory information.”
All other evacuees who raise similar concerns will also be sent to Kosovo, the sources said.
Of the more than 30,000 evacuees from Afghanistan to the US, about 10,000 additional screenings were required on Friday, the sources said, and of those about 100 have been flagged for possible links with the Taliban or terrorist groups. Two of those 100 raised enough concerns for additional review.
Other evacuees currently being investigated in the D.C. area have been found to have previously been deported from the United States for past crimes, two sources said. The Department of Homeland Security now decides what to do with the people.
In a statement, a DHS spokesman said: “The federal government has put in place a robust and multi-layered screening and review process with two goals, protecting the homeland and protecting vulnerable Afghans.”
A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment.
In addition, US officials are trying to arrange the accommodation of unaccompanied minors, with up to 10 Afghans under the age of 18 arriving in the US every day. DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Friday that Afghan children arriving unaccompanied in the US will be cared for by health and social services while the agency finds permanent home with a relative or sponsor.
Evacuees were screened while waiting in airplanes on the tarmac in Kabul to leave Afghanistan before disembarking in the US and also in third countries en route to the US, Spain and Germany, among others.
“When we receive derogatory information, we know how to deal with it. These muscles are trained very well, ”Mayorka told reporters at a press conference on Friday.
As previously reported by NBC News, Mayorkas said Friday that some evacuees whose names were on terror watch lists had been banned from entering the United States.
“We are working with our international allies to address the disposition of these people,” Mayorkas said.
The appearance of a name on a terror watchlist does not necessarily mean that a person is a threat.
Julia Ainsley contributed.