The FBI and the military have confirmed to news sources that they will investigate an alleged assault on a female American soldier by a gang of Afghan men temporarily housed in a refugee encampment in New Mexico.
According to a representative for Fort Bliss' Dona Ana Complex in New Mexico, the unnamed soldier was beaten by a "small group" of Afghan evacuees last week.
"We took the allegation seriously and referred it to the Federal Bureau of Investigation as soon as possible. In a statement issued to Fox and The Hill, the 1st Armored Division and Fort Bliss Public Affairs said, "The safety and well-being of our service members, as well as everyone on our installations, is paramount."
The FBI's involvement was confirmed by both outlets, with FBI Public Affairs Officer Special Agent Jeanette Harper informing Fox News that the bureau is "investigating this allegation," and The Hill reports that the agency's El Paso, Texas branch will lead the investigation.
While the military facility stated that the event occurred on September 19, no more details about what happened or the nature of the assault were provided. However, a Fort Bliss spokeswoman said that the US soldier had subsequently been offered counsel and that further safety precautions would be implemented at the site.
"At the Dona Ana Complex, Task Force-Bliss is also enforcing the buddy system and increasing health and safety patrols," the statement stated. "We will fully cooperate with the FBI and continue to provide full support to the service member who has reported the assault."
Bliss is one of eight US military stations housing up to 50,000 Afghan refugees, many of whom have fled their homeland as the US military draws down from a 20-year war in Afghanistan. As part of a rapid evacuation from Kabul airport last month, thousands of newcomers were brought in, but the topic has proven politically divisive among Republican legislators.
"To make it appear as if his botched evacuation was going well, [President] Joe Biden decided to cram tens of thousands of people onto planes. He had no idea who he brought to the United States, to tell you the truth. That's why, while sharing a story on the assault on the female soldier, I led a letter demanding responsibility and answers," Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who is one of the most outspoken opponents of the mass relocation of Afghan refugees, tweeted.
Cruz, along with fellow Republicans Tom Cotton (Arkansas), Ron Johnson (Wisconsin), and Kevin Cramer (North Dakota), signed a letter to Biden on Thursday demanding that he look into how his administration's evacuation op may have "facilitated the transport and trafficking of child brides and other Afghan girls subject to sexual abuse by Afghan men," among other serious concerns.
James Lankford (Oklahoma), Rand Paul (Kentucky), Rick Scott (Florida), Josh Hawley (Missouri), and Johnson, all members of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, sent a separate letter to Biden on the same day. Like the previous letter, the senators expressed worry about the vetting process for recently arrived Afghans, noting two men who had already been charged with violent and sexual crimes since arriving in the US.
The Biden administration has repeatedly denied that anyone "of concern" has entered the country, with an unnamed senior source telling Fox News last week that each evacuee is subjected to many layers of scrutiny.
"No one who is of concern has gotten into the United States," the official said. "The administration is working quickly and carefully to improve screening and vetting operations while maintaining US national security."