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US national security officials express concern about terror threats tied to Afghanistan

Erin B. Logan, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

With no presence in Afghanistan following the withdrawal, the U.S. will face serious challenges in trying to ensure the country does not again become a breeding ground for terrorism, security experts have said.

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said he was particularly concerned that the Taliban has extensive ties with terrorist groups. "The new Taliban looks very much like the old Taliban," Portman said.

Portman noted that Sirajuddin Haqqani — the country's new interior minister — is the leader of the Haqqani network, which the U.S. designated as a terrorist group in 2012.

Haqqani is wanted for questioning by the FBI for his potential connection to a 2008 attack on a Kabul hotel where six people, including one American, were killed. The State Department is offering a reward of up to $10 million for information that directly leads to Haqqani's arrest.

"Obviously we are concerned," Wray said, that Haqqani has a leadership position in Afghanistan's government.

Portman and other lawmakers also raised concerns about how well Afghan refugees and evacuees are being vetted by U.S. officials. The U.S. evacuated 124,000 people from Kabul's airport in the days after the Taliban took over the city.

 

Mayorkas said the Department of Homeland Security is carefully screening Afghans. He said more than 60,000 people have been brought to the U.S. from Afghanistan. About 7% are U.S. citizens, 6% are lawful permanent residents and 3% are Afghans who have received special immigrant visas for their work on behalf of the U.S. government.

The rest are vulnerable individuals whose applications are being carefully reviewed and processed, he testified.

"We have a screening and vetting architecture," Mayorkas said. "We have greater cooperation amongst the federal agencies in the counterterrorism, intelligence and law enforcement communities. We remain ever vigilant in that regard."

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