FBI concerned by terror threat from Afghanistan, within US; DHS hammered on Haiti 'crisis'

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WASHINGTON – As the U.S. confronts a mounting threat posed by domestic extremists, national security officials Tuesday expressed deep concern for the potential reconstitution of al Qaida and a more potent ISIS-K terror group to launch attacks from Afghanistan following the chaotic exit of American military forces.

National Counterterrorism Center Director Christine Abizaid told a Senate panel that evolving threats from Afghanistan represented the center's "absolute top priority," as terror groups move to fill the void by the U.S. withdrawal.

Abizaid joined FBI Director Christopher Wray and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas before the Senate Homeland Security Committee where they were closely questioned about the potential risk posed by the Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.

FBI Director Christopher Wray says the bureau shared information about domestic threats with Washington law enforcement before the Capitol riot.
FBI Director Christopher Wray says the bureau shared information about domestic threats with Washington law enforcement before the Capitol riot.

More: Biden and Trump administrations didn't miss ISIS-K threat – they ignored it, experts say

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Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, the panel's ranking Republican, said the absence of a military presence in Afghanistan, a training ground for 9/11 terrorists, immediately made the U.S. more vulnerable.

"What we lost a month ago was eyes and ears on the ground," Portman said. "We had the ability to do what we don't have now ... It makes it harder to protect the homeland."

The Biden administration, meanwhile, has countered that the U.S. will rely on a so-called "over-the-horizon" strategy involving surveillance technology and, when necessary, air strikes to contain the terrorist threat.

"We are concerned about what the future holds," Wray told lawmakers.

At the same time, Wray said the FBI has been tracking a continuing rise in domestic terror investigations since 2020, when such inquiries have spiked from about 1,000 to 2,700 currently. The numbers are largely being driven by extremists motivated by racial, ethnic, political and anti-government grievances.

But Wray feared that other home-grown actors could be increasingly radicalized by foreign terrorists, including those moving to Afghanistan.

"That is daunting," Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said.

Mayorkas under fire amid surge of Haitian migrants at Del Rio

The hearing turned testy at some points, as Republican members also hammered Mayorkas for the surge of Haitian migrants on the Texas border.

Mayorkas called the massing of migrants under international bridge there as a “human tragedy” that was “extraordinarily difficult to see.”

The secretary said authorities have cut the numbers from up to 15,000 to just less than 10,000 by increasing repatriation flights to Haiti and moving others to processing centers at other locations on the border, describing the surge as “unprecedented,” in number and concentration at one border crossing.

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 9, 2021.
Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 9, 2021.

Republican lawmakers, however, demanded that the administration take responsibility for the “human crisis.”

“Do you bear responsibility for the crisis in Del Rio?” Sen. Josh Hawley repeatedly asked the secretary. “Yes or no?

“It is my responsibility to address the human tragedy in Del Rio,” Mayorkas responded, adding that migrants had received “false information” from traffickers about a new administration sympathetic to migrants.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Haiti Del Rio crisis, Afghanistan power void sparks security concerns

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