Bringing Terrorists to the U.S. for Training

By Dan Cadman on June 1, 2015

Gulmurod Khalimov, a special police forces commander from Tajikistan who disappeared from his country in April, resurfaced recently in an Islamic State propaganda video. It's unclear what triggered the defection of a man formerly charged with protecting the political leaders and government elites of tightly ruled, autocratic Tajikistan.

News accounts tell us that he was well-trained, courtesy of both the American and Russian militaries. He was in the United States several times for such training; likewise with Russia.

In the video, he calls his former bosses dogs, says there are more turncoats like him, and "[w]e are coming to you with slaughter, inshallah." He also makes this oath to America, "God willing, I will come with this weapon to your cities, your homes, and we will kill you."

There has frequently been an uneasy tension in the ranks of immigration officers responsible for enforcing the law, at least in those field offices with geographic jurisdiction over areas where military posts host such training (including Fort Polk in Louisiana, where apparently this Tajik colonel was trained at least once). Such facilities are scattered all over the United States because the locales vary depending on the type of training being given, the military or police service being trained, and dependent on the propriety of the physical surroundings for where these trainees will be operating when they return home (mountain, desert, jungle, or whatever).

The tension arises from the reality that every so often while in the United States, these trainees go missing or engage in unseemly conduct. This causes real difficulties because quite often they are issued A-2 diplomatic visas for the purpose of entering and engaging in their training. (For a quick synopsis of A-1 and A-2 visas, see here.) Fundamentally, this means that they are beyond the scope of normal enforcement processes even as the immigration officers, among others, will be charged with locating them.

I suppose we should all be grateful that the defection was late-blooming, and took place in Tajikistan. But given the geopolitical realities of today's world, there should be some real concern over the vetting processes used to nominate and select such soldiers for training in the United States. What if they were in fact terrorist sympathizers all along, and joined the military or police on the instructions of their cell or group leaders? Imagine the damage they could do while present in our country for training or military exercises.

The notion is not so far-fetched. In 2012, so-called "green-on-blue" attacks (in which Afghan soldiers turned on their allies) constituted 15 percent of the combined casualties for U.S. and other coalition forces. In 2014, one of those green-on-blue deaths was of an American major general.