More than 25,000 Afghans who fled Afghanistan after the fall of Kabul to the Taliban are currently working at US military bases, and senior US officials expect this number to double before the mission is completed.
On Friday, U.S. Northern Command Commander and Air Force Admiral Glenn Van Heck said that the Department of Defense is expected to house about 50,000 people at eight military facilities across the country.
“If needed, we are ready to expand [but] I don’t expect any additional bases at this time,” General Van Heck told reporters at the Pentagon.
Fort Lee, near Richmond, Virginia, was the first base to receive special immigrant visa applicants who fled the Taliban’s homeland last month. The list expanded rapidly and now includes Fort Pickett and Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia, and Fort Bliss, Texas; Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico; Fort McCoy, Wisconsin; Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey; and Camp Atbury, Indiana.
General Van Heck called the evacuation and housing task “a large-scale military, diplomatic and humanitarian undertaking.”
The Afghan evacuees arrived in the United States after spending about a week at military bases in Europe or the Middle East. General Van Heck said that everyone will be tested for COVID-19 upon arrival in the United States.
Some bases have set up “mayor groups”-military officers and Afghan counterparts to jointly manage daily operations in the refugee community.
Families live together in housing units, while single men and single women live in single-sex residences. A few unaccompanied children managed to board one of the flights evacuated from Afghanistan. General Van Heck said that they are now under the care of the Ministry of Health and Human Services, and they hope they can be reunited with their families.
Officials say that about 1,000 Afghans have completed processing at one of the US bases and are now being moved outside the base, preferably near family members, or to areas with a large number of Afghan Americans.