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The Department of Defense is set to house up to 30,000 Afghan refugees on U.S. military bases in the coming days as the Taliban have swept through the nation following President Joe Biden's near-total troop withdrawal.
The individuals will be recipients of the SIV program, short for Special Immigrant Visas for Afghans, which grants asylum to residents of the country who worked for the U.S. government in some capacity, according to DOD documents obtained by Fox News on Sunday. Fort Bliss in Texas and Fort McCoy in Wisconsin are among the military installations that will be accommodating the Afghans.
"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 read.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the United States can house "several thousand" refugees "immediately," though more could flood in the future.
"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," he told Fox. "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."
Kirby did not indicate that U.S. citizens would be given priority evacuation status as much of the country descends into chaos. He said a "mix" of SIV recipients and U.S. personnel would be boarding planes at local airports.
"Once we get more airlift out of Kabul, we’re going to put as many people on those planes as we can," he said. "There will be a mix, not just American citizens but perhaps some Afghan SIV applicants as well. 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."
At least five people have been killed as thousands rushed to evacuate through Kabul airport. The turmoil followed the Taliban's successful takeover of the country's capital after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, and droves of armed militants poured into the city without resistance.
U.S. Embassy personnel are awaiting airlifts out of the nation as the Pentagon authorized the temporary deployment of 6,000 troops to facilitate their hasty exit, marking a three-fold increase from the number of troops in the country on Friday. The Taliban was seen seizing stockpiles of U.S. small arms, Humvees, and drones, among other ordnance.
In July, the White House claimed it could not evacuate a number of Afghan translators, many of whom assisted U.S. military authorities during a number of operations in Afghanistan. As criticism mounted, top brass in the Biden administration claimed the asylum process differed from that of 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 of the matter at the time.
Biden and White House press secretary Jen Psaki have been the subject of sharp backlash for not speaking promptly on the deterioration of Afghanistan over the last few days. Biden is expected to speak publicly in the next few days, though Psaki is on vacation, emails from her office revealed.
Over 60 Western countries, including the U.S., Britain, France, and Japan, issued a joint statement saying all Afghans and international citizens who wanted to leave must be allowed to do so.
The DOD did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Washington Examiner.
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Original Author: Jake Dima
Original Location: DOD to house up to 30,000 Afghan refugees on US military bases