The 77,000 Afghans evacuated to the United States were all processed and released from military bases, but not before racking up a staggering array of criminal entanglements, including violence against women and child molestation.
Federal prosecutors in Virginia have charged a man with assaulting a 14-year-old girl. As investigators searched through his phone, they said, they found child pornography among thousands of photos he kept. They have now charged him with this offense as well.
Another evacuee is accused of hitting his wife with a mobile phone charger and cutting her wrists with a razor blade. Investigators say he was angry with his wife for taking one of the seats at a meeting of evacuees, while his brother had to stand.
Another evacuee is awaiting sentencing after a jury found him guilty of groping a child. He defended his actions to investigators, saying it was part of his culture to hug and kiss children.
In New Jersey, Khan Wali Rahmani has been charged with assault with a dangerous weapon. According to court documents, he got angry when he thought another evacuee was “watching” him during religious rites. He told investigators he grabbed a metal pipe and smashed the man in the back of the head.
Mr. Rahmani claimed self-defense, although the federal investigator who drafted the criminal complaint dryly noted that he attacked “as Victim #1 knelt in prayer.”
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The bad behavior also extends beyond the camps.
In Missoula, Montana, prosecutors charged an evacuee with raping an 18-year-old girl in her hotel room.
In Wisconsin, an evacuee who arrived with his wife and six children and posed as a liaison to the community where they settled is now charged with sexual assault. A woman who worked with the family said the evacuee told her he had never spoken to a woman like her before, said they should act like brother and sister, and then tried to caress.
Rep. Thomas P. Tiffany, a Republican from Wisconsin who monitors evacuees who were sent to Fort McCoy in his state, said, “The cultural differences are stark.
“That’s part of the reason you have to take it slow with any type of immigration situation. We should expect assimilation in our country, and when you come to welcome almost 80,000 people from a culture very different from America, you invite real upheaval in local communities,” said the congressman at the Washington Times.
The evacuees were meant to be allies—those who aided the American war effort and who generally had English skills and acculturation to Americans. In reality, a majority do not have these links. Who got out was determined more by who was able to get to the airport.
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Once in the United States, the Afghans were divided into eight camps run by military bases.
Experts said many of those who arrived lacked the acculturation that genuine allies, who worked with US troops for years, would have had, contributing to resettlement difficulties.
American communities opened their doors and their wallets to help resettle evacuees. The army has won rave reviews for its ability to set up evacuee camps at eight bases across the country.
The vast majority seem to be settling in without criminal entanglement, and some have even begun looking for ways to return their hosts’ bounty. In a moving story, an Indiana evacuee made headlines after enlisting in the Indiana National Guard, saying he was “grateful” for the opportunities the United States had given him.
But there were also significant problems with the evacuated population, many of which went unreported.
New Mexico State Police told The Times they responded to 85 calls for duty from the Afghan camp at Holloman Air Force Base. Among them were more than a dozen battery charges, six domestic violence calls, two prostitution calls, three disorderly calls, two child abuse charges, indecent exposure and 13 suspicious circumstance reports.
When the Department of Defense Inspector General conducted a review of the base’s management of Afghan evacuees, the entire section on security was redacted.
Reports from some of the other seven bases housing evacuees revealed serious setbacks and challenges.
At Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey, investigators said military and federal law enforcement officers discovered that Afghan leaders at the evacuee camp were covering up reports of the crimes, by particularly incidents of domestic violence.
At Fort Pickett, Virginia, base security said they had received reports of abuse of women and children, as well as some thefts, but military police felt they had “the authority to limited law enforcement” on evacuees. State and local police, meanwhile, were overstretched to be much help.
Even when law enforcement recommended felony charges – in a vehicle theft incident and another case of physical violence – local magistrates reduced the charges to misdemeanors and evacuees were ‘quickly’ returned to the camp , said the Inspector General.
The crime reports were never attached to the files of the culprits. Security personnel told the inspector general that meant families who might choose to sponsor Afghans — helping them find jobs, find housing or connect to services — would never know about their families. problems at Fort Pickett.
At Fort McCoy, Wis., the inspector general said security personnel found they had “limited options” when faced with crimes such as robbery or simple assault. They tried to get the US attorney’s office to prosecute, but in most cases the federal attorney refuses.
Base officials’ normal recourse for anyone else in this situation would be to restrict access to the facility, but officials decided that would contradict the welcoming posture the United States was trying to maintain toward evacuees. .
Instead, they issued warning letters. In the first two months, the base had to issue 12 warning letters.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for Western Wisconsin declined to discuss his specific reasons. “We base all of our charging decisions on facts and laws and the principles of federal prosecution,” spokeswoman Myra Longfield said.
Mr. Tiffany, the congressman from Wisconsin, said prosecutors faced tough decisions about how to handle the evacuated population.
He said the blame lies with the Biden administration for how the evacuees were brought in in the first place, under the parole authority of the Homeland Security secretary, rather than an official immigrant visa or status. of refugee.
“It goes back to the clumsy way our federal government — particularly the Department of Homeland Security — has dealt with this, and we’re just going to put these people on planes and get them out of Kabul and out to America rather than deal with this problem. their immigration status first,” he said.
Among the cases that have emerged from the camps is that of Alif Jan Adil, accused of assaulting a teenage girl under a blanket. Investigators said he said they were in love, but when confronted by an Afghan translator who said it was against his culture, he felt remorse and admitted guilt.
When investigators went through Mr Adil’s phone, they said, they also found child pornography. He is now charged with this crime in addition to the aggravated sexual assault involving the girl.
The girl told authorities that her mother threatened to kill her “because she brought negative attention to their family for making these allegations”.
In another Wisconsin case, investigators said an evacuee punched his children, strangled his wife and threatened to kill her.
“He beat me several times in Afghanistan to the point that I lost my sight in both eyes,” the woman told authorities. She said her husband had also threatened to send her back to Afghanistan for the Taliban to “deal with”.
Mohammad Imaad was convicted of disorderly conduct and sentenced to imprisonment.
All of the criminal cases reviewed by The Times involved a male defendant. In almost all cases, the victim was a woman.
One exception was in New Jersey, where Mr Rahmani is accused of beating a man he thought was watching him during prayers.
Another exception was in Wisconsin, where a man was charged with the attempted sexual assault of two young teenagers.
There may be other cases under investigation. Federal prosecutors said they could not speak to referrals that have not been charged.
A high-profile case at Fort Bliss involved a female soldier who said she was assaulted by a “small group” of male evacuees. No charges have been filed in this case.
When the first charges emerged in September, Air Force Gen. Glen VanHerck, head of U.S. Northern Command, said the numbers were still relatively low.
“I did some research,” said the general. “What we are seeing are law enforcement violations that are on par with, and in most cases significantly lower, than similarly sized populations across the United States”
He also pointed out that cases had been reported to authorities by other evacuees.
At the time the general made his remarks, he said, eight cases were being investigated.
Neither the Department of Homeland Security nor U.S. Northern Command would release final numbers from the criminal investigation, but Northern Command said it stood by the general’s assessment.
“From a DoD perspective, through the efforts of each task force to provide cultural training and education, criminal incidents have dropped significantly over time to an average well below most populations of a similar size. across the country,” the Northern Command told The Times in a statement.
Homeland Security, in its response to questions about the criminal behavior of evacuees, detailed the database of screening Afghans before being brought to the United States and the warnings issued to Afghans about breaking the law once they were in the country.
“If individuals engage in criminal activity or if additional information becomes available that raises concerns, the U.S. government takes action, which may include prosecution, revoking of parole, and placement in removal proceedings.” , the department said.
The Times contacted several Afghan-American organizations for this story but received no response.