US prepares to house thousands of Afghan refugees on American military installations

The Department of Defense is preparing to immediately house thousands of Afghan refugees on American military installations, Fox News confirmed late Sunday.

Documents obtained by Fox News show DoD plans to potentially relocate up to 30,000 Afghan SIV applicants into the United States in the immediate future.

"The situation in Afghanistan may lead to DoS [Department of State] allowing Afghan SIV applicants to be moved to temporary housing locations while still being vetted for parolee status," the document reads.

The bases include Fort McCoy in Wisconsin and Fort Bliss in Texas.

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"We want to have the capacity to get up to several thousand immediately, and want to be prepared for the potential of tens of thousands," Pentagon Spokesperson John Kirby told Fox News. "Bliss and McCoy have the capability right now – and what’s advantageous is with a little bit of work, they could increase their capacity in very short order."

The move is a reversal from the Biden administration’s previous policy. On July 8, President Biden told Fox News’ Jacqui Heinrich the US government could not evacuate Afghan translators to the US to await visa processing like some migrants at the southern border. 

"The law doesn’t allow that to happen. And that’s why we’re asking Congress to consider changing the law," Biden said.

Kirby says American citizens will not be given priority evacuation over Afghan SIV applicants.  

"Once we get more airlift out of Kabul, we’re going to put as many people on those planes as we can. There will be a mix, not just American citizens, but perhaps some Afghan SIV applicants as well," Kirby said. "We’re going to focus on getting people out of the country, then sorting it out at the next stop. It’s not going to be just Americans first, then SIV applicants. We’re going to focus on getting as many folks out as we can."

Some 6,000 US troops are expected in Kabul with the objective of keeping the airport open to achieve that goal. "We are already basically in charge of air traffic control at the airport, so we’re going to be in oversight of the air operations at the airport for as long as we can," Kirby said.

The State Department will determine who is sent forward – the job of the military is to find facilities and infrastructure for refugees to sleep and receive food and medical care during processing. The Pentagon is working closely with the State Department to find overseas and possibly domestic processing locations for additional Afghan refugees who do not qualify for SIV status, falling instead under P-2 and P-1 visas.

"[Defense] Secretary Lloyd Austin has made it very clear to the Department and to military leaders that he wants additional options," Kirby said. "We all share a sense of urgency and we’re going to be leaning forward to help the State Department as much as we can."

As for how much longer the military presence will remain tenable, Kirby says, "The President gave us August 31st as an end date, so that’s what we’re focused on."

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