- The Washington Times - Monday, September 20, 2021

Sen. Steve Daines is demanding answers about the Biden administration’s Afghan evacuation program over concerns it has been subverted by child traffickers.

Mr. Daines, Montana Republican, sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security on Monday requesting pertinent information on its vetting process for Afghan evacuees. The GOP lawmaker argued that congressional oversight was needed to ensure taxpayer dollars were not spent on resettling “dangerous individuals or child traffickers” within the u.S.

The congressman’s concerns come amid reports that some teen and preteen girls evacuated from Afghanistan have been raped and forced into marriages with older Afghan men.   

“While admitting those who served alongside U.S. forces and those who would face religious persecution is laudable, there is a great deal of public confusion as to the full scope of those who are entering the U.S. following the fall of Afghanistan‘s government to the Taliban,” wrote Mr. Daines in the letter, a copy of which was obtained exclusively by The Washington Times.

Given that more than 120,000 individuals have already been evacuated from Afghanistan, Mr. Daines said it was concerning that many lacked “comprehensive records” from which to conduct a proper national security threat screening.

The lack of records and lingering questions about the “thoroughness” of DHS‘s “screening process” has Republicans worried. Many point to recent media reports that indicate older Afghan men have turned up at evacuee intake centers in both the Middle East and the U.S. with “much younger wives.”

At Fort McCoy intake center in Wisconsin, for instance, a recent wave of Afghan evacuees with what appear to be “child brides” has set off a flurry of requests for “guidance” on how to respond from the State Department.

Government documents also indicate that “Afghan girls at a transit site in Abu Dhabi have alleged they have been raped by older men they were forced to marry in order to escape Afghanistan,” according to the Associated Press.

“There is significant concern about the thoroughness of the security screening process,” wrote Mr. Daines. “There are numerous media reports of potential child-trafficking cases involving ‘child brides’ and of women and children being subjected to sexual abuse prior to their departure from Afghanistan.”

In his letter, Mr. Daines requested Homeland Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas detail to Congress what the federal government was doing about the situation. GOP lawmakers are especially interested in whether the Biden administration has a system in place to weed out individuals engaged in “child trafficking or sexual misconduct.”

Concerns over child trafficking and sexual abuse have flummoxed Biden administration officials in the wake of Afghanistan‘s fall to the Taliban. Many find themselves struggling to balance alleviating a humanitarian crisis with the knowledge that the individuals they are trying to save hold cultural norms that differ strongly from those of the U.S.

The issue of child marriage is just one example. In 2016, the United Nations estimated that 57% of girls in Afghanistan married before the age of 19.

Of that group, 40% of Afghan girls were married between the ages of 10-to-13 years of age, while nearly 60% were married between 14-to-15 years of age.

Neither DHS nor the State Department immediately responded to requests for comment on this story. 

• Haris Alic can be reached at halic@washingtontimes.com.

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