Representative Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) Said he and a group of bipartisan lawmakers have been denied access to refugees and detention facilities in Doha, Qatar, as members seek to help efforts to evacuation of voters and Afghan allies who remain in Afghanistan.
The Californian Republican, who sits on the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, said that although they could go to Udeid Air Force Base unescorted and receive a briefing from a US general, they couldn’t see what was going on firsthand.
“We were able to go to the air base where all of our fighters were, walk around, and then go do a briefing with a one-star General Donohue,” he told the Post in an interview.
“They were happy to tell us how well everything went during the evacuation, but they denied all access to historic or current detention areas for refugees, and denied us all access to current refugees, including including those that may come from our home or our destination. to San Diego or other areas.
Issa said he believed the move to block lawmakers’ entry was unprecedented and raised questions about the administration’s handling of ongoing operations, adding that they had received an “ever-changing story” on the reasons they were not allowed to enter the premises despite having worked to coordinate with officials prior to travel.
According to a senior GOP source, they have started contacting the United States Central Command (CENTCOM) and the United States Embassy to have members visit the American side of Al Udeid Air Base and Camp As. Sayliyah (CAS) where evacuated Afghan refugees were being evacuated. hosted and processed for the relocation, having exchanged several emails about it since September 22.
“We started this congressional trip over a month ago, a bipartisan group, we gave them our request to see both the base facilities, each of the two bases. At first there were refugees in both, now there are only in one of them. And there was no serious backsliding on anything until we got here, and then they said they couldn’t facilitate it because they were trying to complete the departure of these. Last 2,300 people, ”Issa continued.
“In today’s unclassified briefing, they claimed that the only thing holding back the 2,300 or so people who are still there was the number of days until their measles vaccines. [were effective]. Which begs the question: If these were Americans just waiting for the last few days after getting vaccines, what harm would it be for us to visit? They gave us many opportunities to meet airmen from our various home states for lunch, but denied all access to the facilities or to those stranded there. But this is not a DOD [Department of Defense] decision even if they announced the bad news, it is obviously a decision of the White House.
Issa said members of the trip – who aimed to review the aftermath of the evacuation and to thank the “thanks to the Qataris for what they have done in times of need,” including hosting around 60,000 refugees in their country – each There were still individuals from the districts who remained in Afghanistan, which he said indicates that the number of Americans and United States allies trapped in the country is significantly higher than what the administration described.
“Each of us has one or more families who are still trapped in Afghanistan, to go ahead and see what we could do to facilitate their exit and to find out where the traffic jams are because Qatar is planning at least two flights per. week. that can take out the Americans, but they coordinate with the State Department, which in many cases can’t seem to get people on the list to get on planes, ”he said.
He added that when officials were pressed by members, they received little clarification of the numbers.
“They are only willing to admit to a section of Americans that people like me have submitted them, their actual copies of their blue passports because we submit them and we submit them again and in some cases they pass information to the Taliban. and these people are being killed. So it was very frustrating that it was all one way, there are not 200 people left, there was still the amount they are willing to admit, “he said.
“I’ll give you an example, that was about four weeks ago, 60 members of Congress where this happened, all Republicans, and said, ‘Who are you working on and how many? And we added them up but there were over 200 of us with members of Congress, so assuming that’s less than 10 percent of the House members in the Senate, you can imagine that if from our districts and our own state, we could get out 200 out of 60 members, there was no doubt that there were over 1,000 active accounts that the State Department received from members of Congress. “
Issa said one piece of information they couldn’t get at a congressional briefing was the chaos surrounding the identification of people entering the country due to the lack of refugee identification documents.
“I think one of the things that the seven members including [Rep.] Lou Corea (D-Calif.), A heard Democrat who may have been a little shocking, is that more than 20 percent of people who were brought on these flights had no identification documents. In other words, they just showed up and were put on the plane. They could say anyone’s name, they had no control. he said.
“Now they could be very legitimately allowed to enter the United States, they could be interpreters, they could be in danger, but at least 20% had no ID. The remaining amount, over 40% of the total had some ID that not in itself connect them to the United States. … The military made it clear that when overwhelmed by these tens of thousands of people, many of them simply pushed their way through, not because they were US citizens and not because they had the right. to come to the United States, but because they got along well.