General addresses Afghanistan evacuee screening process

During a Pentagon briefing Thursday, Gen. Tod Wolters, commander of the U.S. European Command, spoke about the screening of Afghan refugees and evacuees and what happens if they fail that process.

Video transcript

- I have a question about the screening of evacuees as they come in. And I know, [INAUDIBLE] the military isn't doing a lot of that. But can you give us a better picture of what is happening to people who may be failing the screening or problems with screening.

Are the countries-- the allies that you're dealing with, are they expressing some concerns about what is going to happen to those people, what will the US do with them? And can you tell us also if there has been any COVID problems with those evacuees as they are being processed? Thank you.

TOD WOTLERS: [INAUDIBLE] I'll kind of go reversed order. Number one, we're pleasantly surprised at the very, very few COVID situations that we've had abroad in Europe. Our policy is to allow the field commanders in place to govern the administration of COVID testing and COVID vaccination based on conditions on the ground.

And as you well know at this time, the game plan is for all of our evacuees and travelers to ultimately get to the United States, get to military installations, and then, at that point, they would receive the appropriate testing and the appropriate vaccinations, with respect to allied concerns on folks that we are screening.

So far, we've had tremendous cooperation in this area. We've informed the nations of Germany, Italy, and Spain when we have individuals who are coming up close to the 10-day time limit. And we've received 100% cooperation from the nations in this area. And [INAUDIBLE], with respect to screening, it's come a long way in the last 10 days.

What we do is in-process our evacuees and during the course of the in-processing, we conduct combined biometric and biographic screening so that through DOD channels, through CBP channels, and through FBI channels, we have comprehensively scrutinized their background.

And this process takes place at the initial screening when the evacuees come to our intermediate bases. And we want to make sure that we conduct the screening, get the results, and ensure that we've got results on the individual before we put these individuals into their sleeping quarters. And then as they remain on station, at some point, they'll be notified that it's time to depart.

And as the individuals depart, they'll be screened one more time to make sure that from a biometric and biographical standpoint, cleared through DOD, CBP, and FBI, that they continue to remain in the green. I will tell you, we've also been pleasantly surprised with the number of individuals that are in need of further processing slash more screening. And the way the process works at Ramstein, the way it works at [INAUDIBLE], and the way it currently works at [INAUDIBLE], is during that initial screening process, if an individual pops red, we calmly take them out of the normal processing line, and we put them in a different location so that we can have some isolation and have a little bit of extra time to make sure that everybody is as safe and secure as possible.

[INAUDIBLE], that's a big hand over a little map description. It's a lot more complicated than that. We've refined this process over the course of the last 10 days. As you can well imagine, if we wind up in situations to where we are backed up with evacuees at certain locations, if the screening process is too exorbitant, too slow, we can wind up having some serious problems.

When we initially started operations here in Europe, our average wait time in the in-processing line put us in a position to where we could in-process about 60 folks per hour. Today, we possess the capability to process 250 folks per hour. And that has a lot to do with the improvement in the software with respect to our biometric machines communicating with our biographical machines.