Afghan man on terrorist watch list released pending trial after crossing border

Intelligence reports indicate that Mohammad Kharwin belongs to the Islamist organization Hezb-e Islami Gulbuddin.

Federal authorities released an alleged Afghan terrorist belonging to the terrorist group Hezb-e Islami Gulbuddin (HIG), an Islamic political party and paramilitary organization, just days after he was detained last year when he illegally crossed the southwest border through California.

According to a report from NBC News, the Biden administration allowed Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents to release Mohammad Kharwin, 48, under the Alternatives to Detention (ATD) program because it could not initially be corroborated whether or not he was on the terrorist watchlist.

The ATD program exists "to ensure compliance with release conditions and provides important case management services for non-detained noncitizens," through technological tools that facilitate their "compliance with release conditions while on ICE’s non-detained docket," according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Upon being able to verify that Kharwin was suspected of being a member of HIG thanks to FBI investigations, in February of this year ICE arrested him again, this time in Texas. However, the information about Kharwin was classified, and he was released after paying $12,000 bail. In 2025, he will have to appear in court to see whether or not he will be kicked out of the country.

What is HIG?

The National Counterterrorism Center defines the HIG as " political and paramilitary organization in Afghanistan founded in 1976 by former Afghan prime minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who has been prominent in various Afghan conflicts since the late 1970s." Their original objective was to overthrow the Western-backed government of Afghanistan and take control of the country.

Among its terrorist acts, the HIG carried out several attacks in recent years. One of them was a suicide bombing in Kabul in July 2015. Three months earlier, there was an attack in the province of Nangarhar. In the latter, an American soldier was killed. In 2013, the group acknowledged responsibility for the largest attack against American citizens in Kabul. In total, six Americans died.

Kharwin's case is yet another example terrorists' access to U.S. soil via the southern border. Last year, Border Patrol agents detained more terrorism suspects than in the previous six years combined. In total, 172 were intercepted in fiscal year 2023, while, between in the 2017 to 2022 fiscal years, only 128 were intercepted.