Thousands of former members of Afghanistan’s military were forced to flee the country into Iran in the final days of the U.S. war in Afghanistan, raising fears that Tehran may pressure them to reveal sensitive U.S. military information and tactics.
“As the Taliban’s advance on Kabul progressed, there was no organized effort to prioritize the evacuation of critical Afghan military personnel who possessed unique knowledge of the U.S. military’s tactics, techniques, and procedures and could thereby pose a security risk to America if they could be forced to divulge their knowledge to a U.S. adversary,” reads a report released Tuesday by Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
The 120-page report, which was obtained by Foreign Policy, paints a chaotic picture of the final days of the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan, arguing the State Department was not prepared for the quick collapse of the Afghan government and the rapidly deteriorating security situation as the Taliban swept across the country.
“Today, we’re still reeling from the damage that was done last August, including emboldening and empowering our foreign adversaries,” McCaul told Foreign Policy.
The report states that many Afghans abandoned nearly a year ago and forced to flee to Iran were elite U.S.-trained Afghan commandos with direct knowledge of closely-guarded U.S. tactics that are now in danger of falling into the hands of Iran.
Out of options and in fear of their safety as well as the safety of their family members while the Taliban increased its hunt for those who assisted the U.S. war effort, as many as 3,000 of the commandos ended up in Iran, which shares an over 500-mile-long border with Afghanistan.
“I think most of the Afghans that were in the commandos and other special units were really close to the Americans,” Mick Mulroy, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense and CIA paramilitary officer, told Foreign Policy. “But if you had no option and the only place you could go to escape the Taliban was Iran, and they’re the ones that are going to pay your bills and be able to take care of your family, they’ll be hard pressed not to take that opportunity because they really have no options.”
The U.S. conducted a large scale withdrawal in the final days of the U.S. presence in Afghanistan, evacuating close to 130,000 Americans, Afghan civilians, and military personnel. But thousands of Afghans who helped the U.S. during its time in Afghanistan were left behind, forced to navigate the slow and complicated special immigrant visa system that has long been plagued by backlogs.
A White House National Security Council spokesperson told Fox News that the U.S. has been “proud to have welcomed tens of thousands of our Afghan allies and their families to the U.S. over the past year,” adding that “the U.S. Government remains focused on supporting our Afghan allies under Operation Allies Welcome, including through P-1 referrals to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.”
“We will continue to welcome former ANDSF forces who have received a P1 referral and been found eligible for refugee status,” the spokesperson said.
But the White House did not address the thousands of former Afghan commandos who fled to Iran and what security threat they could potentially pose, or if the U.S. has any strategy to extract those Afghans from Iran and prevent more former U.S. allies from fleeing to the country.
A source from U.S. Special Forces Command with knowledge of the withdrawal told Fox News that the concerns listed in the report are accurate, noting that the U.S. left many of the Afghan commandos with few options during the evacuation and that many of the U.S.-trained forces could have knowledge of U.S. military tactics Iran would find valuable.
The Pentagon did not immediately respond to a Fox News request for comment.
Meanwhile, Afghan commandos who have fled to Iran have reportedly been receiving seven-month visa permits if they can prove their service in Afghanistan’s military, but Iran is expected to renew those visas indefinitely.
The report comes as the Taliban has increased its effort to hunt down and kill former members of the Afghan military, with U.S. officials saying elite Afghan commandos are more vulnerable, potentially making an escape to Iran seem like a viable option.
McCaul’s report concludes that the commandos have been forced to flee to Iran because they were abandoned by the U.S., arguing that the Biden administration still lacks a clear policy on how to evacuate those left behind.
The report notes that a State Department official in February said, “the issue of evacuating Afghan commandos ‘will be discussed in the interagency’ and ‘it all still remains to be discussed and determined,” but as of last month there was still no plan in place from the White House.
The State Department did not immediately return a Fox News request for comment.