Biden Admin Blocks Bipartisan Lawmakers From Accessing Afghan Evacuee Holding Site

Afghan refugee camp As Sayliyah in Doha, Qatar / Getty Images
October 15, 2021

The Biden administration on Thursday blocked a bipartisan delegation of House lawmakers from entering and inspecting a U.S.-run military facility near Doha, Qatar, where thousands of Afghan evacuees are being stationed prior to their possible relocation to America, according to a GOP lawmaker who participated in the visit.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.), who was part of a delegation that included House Foreign Affairs Committee members, told the Washington Free Beacon that lawmakers were barred from entering Camp As Sayliyah, an American-controlled compound where thousands of Afghan refugees are still being held since being airlifted to safety.

Issa's office spent weeks petitioning the Department of Defense for access to these Afghan refugees on behalf of the delegation, but the lawmakers were denied access to the U.S.-controlled site when they arrived Thursday at Al Udeid Air Base in Doha for a scheduled briefing on the American evacuation effort. Camp As Sayliyah is about 40 minutes away from Al Udeid, a joint American-Qatari airbase that serves as headquarters for U.S. Central Command.

U.S. military officials stationed at the base "never let us meet with the 2,300 remaining America-bound refugees, maybe some of whom are American citizens and others who are green card holders," Issa said from Doha in a telephone interview. "We think the number one classified piece that they were protecting is called embarrassment. Many of these people have stories of the difficulty getting out, the lack of cooperation or help by the State Department, and now they find themselves being artificially held longer in some cases. We think it's just that they don't want people telling their stories."

More than two months after the Biden administration left the country, Issa and lawmakers from both parties have largely been stymied in their efforts to investigate the botched U.S. evacuation from Afghanistan, which left scores of Americans stranded and even more Afghan allies at risk of being killed by the Taliban. Issa said the U.S. military's refusal to permit lawmakers from carrying out their oversight duties is part of a larger effort by the Biden administration to keep the American public in the dark about exactly what unfolded in the war-torn country.

The White House National Security Council referred the Free Beacon to U.S. Central Command. Central Command told the Free Beacon it did not have any information on what took place. The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

"They're pretty straightforward in denying members of both parties the legitimate oversight opportunities," Issa said. "We gave them several weeks advance notice."

Rep. Lou Correa (D., Calif.), also on the trip, was "equally furious" about being denied entry, Issa said. Correa did not respond to a request for comment.

Issa and his colleagues were permitted to receive a briefing from U.S. military leaders at the base, and the information provided was "shocking to a lot of members."

The lawmakers were informed that more than 20 percent of those who arrived in Doha and were later brought into the United States—around 12,000 individuals—had no identification, paperwork, or visas.

"They came with nothing," Issa said. "No Afghan I.D., no I.D. of any sorts. Those people were all forwarded on to the U.S., and that's quite an admission. So many people had no I.D. whatsoever and yet find themselves in the United States today based on what they said."

Since the Biden administration began permitting Afghan refugees into the United States, there have been numerous reports of refugees having criminal records.

Though Issa and other lawmakers made multiple efforts to gain access to the holding facilities, Central Command ultimately denied their requests.

"You know what they're hiding? The latest Afghanistan disaster from the Biden administration," Issa spokesman Jonathan Wilcox told the Free Beacon. "The White House is turning the page and closing the door."