The thousands of prisoners freed by the Taliban in Afghanistan after the terrorist group took over the country pose a “serious concern to the security of the United States,” top Republicans in the House of Representatives warned national security adviser Jake Sullivan on Wednesday.
Prisoners freed from Pul-e-Charkhi prison and Bagram Air Base, among other lockups, are reported to include Taliban terrorists, senior Al-Qaeda operatives, and former Guantanamo Bay detainees.
“This development is found to be more troubling considering recent reports of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General [Mark] Milley’s observation that terror groups like Al-Qaeda could build up in Afghanistan much sooner than earlier intelligence estimates suggested. With the very real prospect that seasoned terrorist operatives now roam freely in a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, we write to urgently request information on how the U.S. Government plans to mitigate threats to U.S. interests and the homeland,” the Republicans wrote to Sullivan.
They’re asking for detailed information on the prisoners, including whether the U.S. government is aware of any who were previously involved in plotting terror attacks against the United States.
“As the American people prepare to mark the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, we are soberly reminded of the dangers posed to the homeland by threats borne out of terror safe havens, like Afghanistan,” Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.) and two other top Republicans said.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
Sullivan told reporters on Tuesday that the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan was presenting broad challenges.
“We will remain persistently vigilant against the terrorism threat in Afghanistan,” Sullivan said, asserting that the United States “has proven in other places that we can suppress terrorism without a permanent military presence on the ground.”
“We are going to have to deal with the potential threat of terrorism from Afghanistan going forward, just as we have to deal with potential threat of terrorism in dozens of countries, in multiple continents around the world,” he added.
Katko, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), and Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) also linked the threat to the crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border, where thousands of people are crossing illegally every day.
Border agents have encountered known or suspected terrorists from far-flung countries. The outgoing Border Patrol Chief said recently that “Unprecedented numbers of known or suspected terrorists have crossed the southern border in recent months.”
As part of their inquiry, the lawmakers want to know whether the intelligence community and U.S. immigration enforcement officials are sharing information related to known or suspected terrorists “seeking to exploit vulnerabilities along the southwest border.”
Katko is the top Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee. McCaul is the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Rogers is the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee.