932 ‘inadmissible non-citizen’ Afghans at southern border

By Terence P. Jeffrey

There is good reason for Americans to be concerned about individuals from Afghanistan coming across our southern border.

When Gen. Michael Kurilla, commander of U.S. Central Command, testified in the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 7 he issued a warning about ISIS-K, a terrorist group based in Afghanistan.

“[V]arious groups in the Central Region retain the capability and will to target U.S. interests abroad in under six months with little to no warning,” Kurilla said in a written statement to the committee.

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“We assess an attack on American soil would likely take longer,” he said.

“Taliban pressure against ISIS-K temporarily disrupted the group’s ability to plan and conduct attacks against the Homeland and Western targets, but that pressure has been intermittent and insufficient,” Kurilla said in his statement.

“ISIS-K and its allies retain a safe haven in Afghanistan, and they continue to develop their networks in and out of the country,” he said.

“Their goals do not stop there,” he said.

“They have called for attacks globally on anyone not aligned with their extremist ideology, and Taliban efforts to suppress the group have proven insufficient,” Kurilla said. “The recent ISIS attack in Kerman, Iran, demonstrates the group’s resiliency and indicates that they retain the capability to conduct spectacular external operations.”

What happened in Kerman?

“ISIS-K killed 91 Iranians and injured 284 others in Kerman on 3 January 2024,” Kurilla said. “This was the deadliest terror attack in Iran since 1979 and it is part of ISIS’ effort to exploit the war in Gaza to rejuvenate its global attacks.”

ISIS-K is not the only terrorist group in Afghanistan.

“Al-Qaida, while weakened, still enjoys safe havens in Afghanistan and Yemen. Al-Qaida in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) operates training camps, safehouses, and religious schools in Afghanistan,” he said.

“Both AQIS and AQAP [Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula] continue to call for lone wolf attacks on U.S. and Western interests via their digital reach,” he said.

Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, who served as a U.S. Army officer in Afghanistan, questioned Kurilla about what he had said about ISIS and al-Qaida.

In this exchange, Kurilla said an ISIS attack in Europe or Eurasia is more likely in the near future than one in the United States itself.

“You said – and this is close to a direct quote – that we could see attacks against U.S. or Western interests abroad with little to no warning in as little as six months,” Cotton said. “Are you speaking there about ISIS and al-Qaida from Afghanistan?”

Kurilla responded: “ISIS-Khorasan specifically, and also out of Syria, which they are trying to factor into predominantly European countries.”

“So,” said Cotton, “ISIS out of either Afghanistan or Syria, attacks against U.S. interests and Western interests abroad in as little as six months. Now, abroad can mean a lot of things. Abroad could mean our embassy in Tajikistan. It could also mean Western Europe or North America.

“Could you be more specific?” Cotton asked.

“Europe and Eurasia,” said Kurilla.

“What is the timeline you foresee in which those terrorist organizations could launch an attack with little or no warning against the American homeland?” asked Cotton.

“I think it is … a lot more difficult for them to be able to do that and requires substantially more resources,” responded Kurilla.

“OK,” said Cotton, “so six months anywhere across Eurasia and indeterminate time in North America?”

“Yes,” said Centcom’s commander.

When Kurilla had testified in the Senate Armed Services Committee in March 2023, he admitted that U.S. intelligence gathering in Iraq had diminished.

“At one time, we had 60 balloons over Kabul, Afghanistan,” Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama said to Kurilla then. “Our ISR [intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance] is very limited. How confident are you in the intelligence you have to see threats rising from the Taliban?”

“Our intelligence has degraded since we are no longer in Afghanistan,” Kurilla said. “I believe we can see the broad contours of an attack. Sometimes we lack the granularity to see the full picture, and we’re working to close that gap with our alternative airborne ISR and some of our other intelligence that we are working to penetrate those networks.”

Since this nation’s military forces were withdrawn from Afghanistan in 2021, the Biden administration has been conducting “Operation Enduring Sentinel.” Last month, the inspectors general for this operation released their report for the first quarter of 2024. Operation Enduring Sentinel, it explains, is “the U.S. mission to conduct over-the-horizon counterterrorism operations against threats emanating from Afghanistan and to engage with Central Asian and South Asian regional partners to combat terrorism and promote regional stability.”

The United States, of course, is continuing to accept refugee applications from people fleeing the situation in Afghanistan. “From Oct. 1, 2020, to March 6, 2024, USCIS interviewed approximately 24,400 Afghan refugee applicants,” said the inspectors general report.

Then there are those who are not refugee applicants.

“In addition,” said the report, “U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) encountered 68 Afghan ‘inadmissible non-citizens’ at the U.S. Southwest Border in FY 2022 and 342 in FY 2023.

“As of March 5,” it said, “CBP had encountered 932 in FY 2024.”

How many “inadmissible non-citizen” Afghans made it across the southwest border in those first 156 days of this fiscal year without being encountered by the Border Patrol?

It only took 19 al-Qaida terrorists to carry out the 9/11 attack.

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