Afghan refugees must be vetted before they’re admitted to the US

While the United States’ involvement in Afghanistan needed to end at some point, President Joe Biden’s reckless withdrawal plan was an epic failure of leadership for which he must be held to account. The service members we have lost, and the many American civilians he has abandoned to an uncertain fate, deserve nothing less.

Biden has argued that we could not continue to incur the enormous expense of a long-term military engagement in Afghanistan. In response, he pursued a plan that was executed at an incalculable cost — namely, the lives of 13 service members killed by a suicide bomber, innocent American civilians abandoned behind enemy lines, the betrayal of our Afghan allies, a global questioning of American might and resolve, the emboldening of our terrorist adversaries, and the surrender of billions of dollars in military equipment and technology to the Taliban.

The repercussions of Biden’s blunders have reverberated throughout the world and may destabilize the existing global order in ways even our most able political prognosticators cannot anticipate. Yet Biden remains resolute in his defense of the indefensible, attributing these losses to the unfortunate consequences of an unavoidably chaotic withdrawal. In the meantime, our nation grieves; our veterans’ crisis hot line experienced an exponential increase in calls this August compared to the same period last year, which the Department of Veterans Affairs attributes in part to Biden’s bungling of the withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Interestingly, Sen. Lisa Murkowski has expressed surprise and dismay at Biden’s calamitous withdrawal, even though she initially believed that “this administration had a viable plan in place.”

We are not surprised by Murkowski or her hindsight-criticism of the Biden administration. She consistently has enabled Biden’s radical policies, including those that target Alaska. Nor are we surprised by Biden. We hoped for better, but he has proven, yet again, that he is the person we have always known him to be — the same person who helped lead President Barack Obama’s hasty withdrawal from Iraq in 2011, which led to the rise of ISIS.

While Biden cannot undo the results of his appallingly poor judgment, he still can prevent further damage and danger to our homeland by properly vetting all Afghans who are seeking to resettle in America under our refugee program. The United States has always been a welcoming nation. We should open our arms to Afghans seeking freedom and protection from persecution, beginning with those who risked their lives to support our troops. But we also should have a clear understanding of whom we are admitting and screen out any who may present a risk to our security.

I spent part of my career serving in the national security community. I am aware of the methods jihadists employ to gain entry to our country, as well as the methods we use to identify them. Verifying the background of potential refugees is challenging even under the most ideal conditions; conducting a thorough and responsible vetting process for thousands of people rapidly fleeing a collapsed country is almost impossible. Nevertheless, Biden must take every remaining precaution available to prevent Islamic extremists from gaining entry to our country. He simply cannot afford to compound one entirely avoidable calamity with another, nor can the American people afford to suffer the consequences of yet another Biden bungle.

Thus far, President Biden has offered only a vague commitment that refugees will be “screened,” but that provides no assurance. Remember, it was Biden who laid out the “welcome mat” at our southern border with Mexico, effectively inviting hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants to enter our country with virtually no scrutiny and intentionally reversing many of the successful border protection policies President Donald Trump instituted. President Biden must explain precisely how his administration will verify that Afghan refugees pose no security danger to the United States; otherwise, we risk importing terrorism.

At this point, there is little Biden can do to repair what he broke in Afghanistan, including his complete dismantling of the advancement of women’s rights that Afghan women and girls had only just begun to experience. But he still can prevent terrorists from exploiting our compassion by using our refugee program in order to move their battlefield to our backyards. We can only hope.

Kelly Tshibaka is a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Alaska.

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