There are lessons to be learned from the recent terror attack in Manhattan, which resulted in eight deaths and twelve injuries.
Umar Farooq, writing in the Los Angeles Times notes the radicalization of 29 year old Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov did not occur in his native Uzbekistan, but in the United States. Uzbekistan is a former Soviet republic situated north of Afghanistan, and with a Muslim majority. It is rather ruthlessly ruled by Shavkat Mirziyoyev, who has suppressed extremists within his borders.
Luke Lishin, writing for Smallwars describes Uzbekistani radicalism: “After approximately one decade spent in the shadow of the Afghan Taliban, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) claimed ownership over what appear to be increasingly frequent waves of violence focused in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and at the borders of Central Asia. While the return of the IMU as a capable fighting force may be rightly construed as a threat to the stability of Central Asia writ large, the risks are especially pronounced in the case of the region’s most populous state, Uzbekistan.”
Proof of Saipov’s recruitment to radicalism while in the U.S. can be seen in the official complaint from the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force notes his cellphone “contains approximately 90 videos, many of which appear to be…ISIS related propaganda. For example, the videos include…a video of what appears to be ISIS fighters killing a prisoner by running the prisoner over with a tank…” The cellphone also included “3,800 images, many of which appear to be ISIS propaganda…”
Farooq notes that this isn’t the first terrorist attack involving Uzbekistanis. “In 2015, prosecutors in New York arrested three men, including two citizens of Uzbekistan, for trying to join Islamic State and carry out attacks in the US…While that plot did not go forward, several deadly attacks in Europe have been attributed to Islamic State members from Central Asia. Prosecutors in Turkey are currently trying Abdulkadir Masharipov, a citizen of Uzbekistan who allegedly saw combat in Afghanistan and Syria, for the killing of 39 revelers at a nightclub in Istanbul on Dec. 31, 2016. Masharipov was allegedly part of a network of Islamic State members from former Soviet countries that was also responsible for a June 2016 attack on Istanbul’s Ataturk International Airport that killed 45 people.” Julia Ioffe, writing for The Atlantic, also noted that “An Uzbek drove a truck into a crowd in Stockholm in April… an Uzbek was sentenced to 15 years in prison by a New York court for providing material support to ISIS. Uzbekistan has provided some 1,500 soldiers to ISIS in Iraq and Syria, according to the Soufan Group. ISIS has claimed that Uzbeks were responsible for some of its most high-profile suicide bombings in Iraq. In November 2014, the largest Uzbek faction fighting in Syria pledged its allegiance to the Taliban.”
With an abundant history of terrorism being exported from Uzbekistan, why weren’t more safeguards in place both before and after Saipov’s entry?
Saipov legally entered America ostensibly for economic reasons, under a 1990 legislative bill, HR 4165, introduced by now Senator but then Representative Charles Schumer(D-NY). The late Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) introduced the Senate equivalent. The Diversity Visa Program focuses on favoring entry to those from nations not well-represented in immigrant numbers.
Daniel Horowitz, the senior editor of Conservative Review notes that “1.83 million green cards were issued to nationals of predominantly Muslim countries from 2001-2015, which has made immigration from the Middle East the fastest-growing subset. This was done after 9/11; that doesn’t include the roughly 155,000 foreign students every year from those same countries. We have admitted over 59,000 legal permanent residents from Uzbekistan since 2001. Does anyone want to guess how many subscribe to Sharia supremacism, which cultivates the climate for these individuals to hate America? We can only wonder about the family members, friends, and relatives of this terrorist. Remember, former FBI Director James Comey admitted that 15 percent of those subject to terrorism investigations were refugees.”
David French’s discussion in National Review of a Ninth Circuit decision against President Trump’s travel ban noted that “The court is going to stop enforcement of a temporary pause in entry from jihadist and jihadist-torn countries (while in a state of war against jihadist terrorists)…the court [granted]…sufficient due-process rights to potential immigrants to halt enforcement of a wartime executive order motivated by the desire to protect America from the rising threat of jihadist terror. Astonishing.”
U.S. immigration policy, particularly in the era of terror, needs to focus more on the needs of America, and American national security. Rep. Jeff Hensarling (R-Texas) states that “Immigrants who come to America seeking economic opportunity are an asset, but unfortunately our current immigration system often places a greater emphasis on genealogy instead of an immigrant’s potential contribution to the United States.” The potential for devastating attacks must also be considered before admitting those seeking entry.