Biden blocks congress members from access to Afghan evacuee facilities

AP Photo/Wali Sabawoon

Here’s a bit of a mystery to start off your weekend. At the end of the Afghanistan evacuation debacle, numerous planes with thousands of people on board flew out of Kabul, heading for a variety of destinations. Some of them have already made their way to holding facilities in the United States, but not nearly all of them. There is one facility located outside of Doha, Qatar known as Camp As Sayliyah where more than 2,000 evacuees are still being held while they await clearance to travel to America. On Thursday, a bipartisan congressional delegation traveled to Qatar to conduct oversight of the ongoing operation. But when the members arrived at the nearby joint American-Qatari Al Udeid Air Base, they were denied permission to travel to Camp As Sayliyah, despite having spent weeks engaging with the Pentagon to make arrangements for the tour. And now, some of the congressional leaders of the delegation would like to know why. (Free Beacon)

The Biden administration on Thursday blocked a bipartisan delegation of House lawmakers from entering and inspecting a U.S.-run military facility near Doha, Qatar, where thousands of Afghan evacuees are being stationed prior to their possible relocation to America, according to a GOP lawmaker who participated in the visit.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.), who was part of a delegation that included House Foreign Affairs Committee members, told the Washington Free Beacon that lawmakers were barred from entering Camp As Sayliyah, an American-controlled compound where thousands of Afghan refugees are still being held since being airlifted to safety.

Issa’s office spent weeks petitioning the Department of Defense for access to these Afghan refugees on behalf of the delegation, but the lawmakers were denied access to the U.S.-controlled site when they arrived Thursday at Al Udeid Air Base in Doha for a scheduled briefing on the American evacuation effort.

This certainly seems unusual and potentially suspicious. If there were security concerns in the region and the safety of the congressional delegation was in question it would be perfectly understandable to at least delay the inspection tour, if not cancel it entirely. But Qatar is one of the more stable regions in that part of the world and the Al Udeid Air Base is probably one of the safer places an American could find themselves in. The camp where the refugees are located is only a 40-minute drive away and there haven’t been any recent reports of terrorist activity in the area.

So what reason was there for canceling the inspection tour? Congressman Darrell Issa was one of the leaders of the delegation and he expressed suspicions as to why the Pentagon and the White House would keep members of Congress from inspecting the facility.

“We think the number one classified piece that they were protecting is called embarrassment,” Issa told reporters. “Many of these people have stories of the difficulty getting out, the lack of cooperation or help by the State Department, and now they find themselves being artificially held longer in some cases. We think it’s just that they don’t want people telling their stories.”

It’s believed that at least some of the evacuees at the camp are either American citizens or green card holders. Why would they not be given the opportunity to speak to congressional representatives? For any of them that are Afghan citizens who require full background checks, it’s perhaps understandable how that process could drag out for a while and lead to delays. But anyone with a green card has presumably already passed those checks. And there should be no reason for delaying the departure of any American citizens, including those with joint American and Afghani citizenship.

Neither the White House nor the National Security Council responded to requests for comments on the situation in Qatar. U.S. Central Command only responded by saying that it had no information as to what took place. But Issa and some of the other members are of the opinion that they are being stonewalled and the Biden Administration is trying to keep the public in the dark about what actually went down during the evacuation.

The other disturbing item that came up during the trip was some information that the congressional members received during a briefing at Al Udeid Air Base. They learned that of the 12,000 people who were flown to Qatar and then on to the United States, approximately 20% of them “had no identification, paperwork, or visas.” That means that thousands of people who were not vetted in any way were among the ones flown to temporary housing on military bases in America. And none of them are being held there if they ask to simply leave. I’ll just leave you to ponder the implications of that for a while.