Wisconsin's Fort McCoy is preparing to receive Afghan refugees as the Taliban takes control of the Middle Eastern nation.
A Fort McCoy spokesperson said Monday the base is getting ready for any refugees. The defense department says up to 22,000 could come to the United States in the next three to four weeks. Director for Defense Intelligence, Garry Reid, said during a Monday briefing that Camp McCoy as well as Fort Bliss, Texas are temporary sites are under assessment for receiving refugees.
Fort McCoy is an army installation that sits on 60,000 acres of land between Tomah and Sparta, in Monroe County. The fort was built in 1909 and largely serves as a training center.
It is unknown precisely how many refugees will be arriving at Fort McCoy, or when they will be arriving.
The Executive director of Jewish Social Cervices of Madison, which is a refugee organization, said so far this year they've resettled 14 people from Afghanistan. They find them an apartment, fully furnished, food for a week and a cell phone with six months of data.
"We are in regular contact with local landlords. For example, so when we have arrivals on short notice, we will have availability, we will continue to collect furniture and household items for people and stay in connection with volunteers and other organizations we partner with to make the transition for refugees as smooth as possible," said Dawn Berney.
In 1980, 14,000 Cuban refugees came to Fort McCoy, so if that's any indication of how many special immigrant visa applications, it at least has the capacity to help.
Department of Defense spokesperson LTC Chris Mitchell issued the following statement regarding receiving immigrants from Afghanistan:
“On Sunday, August 15th, Defense Secretary Austin approved two requests for assistance from the State Department to transport and temporarily house Afghan Special Immigration Visa applicants, their families, and other individuals at risk.
Under the first request, the Department will provide temporary housing, sustainment, and support inside the United States for up to 22,000 Afghan SIV applicants, their families and other at-risk individuals. The US Northern Command will coordinate details with the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Health and Human Services, as necessary. This support will be provided under Presidential Drawdown Authority to the maximum extent possible, with additional support being provided on a reimbursable basis.
Under the second request, the Department will provide protection, air transportation, and processing of up to 30,000 at-risk individuals from Kabul. This total includes embassy personnel, US citizens, Afghan SIV applicants and other at-risk individuals. 8,000 of these will be transported to a third country for processing, with an additional 22,000 being transported to the United States. The Department of State will be responsible for onward travel for all transported individuals.”
The Taliban has nearly taken over all of Afghanistan as the U.S. continues to withdraw from the Middle Eastern country.
The Biden administration and other top U.S. officials have said they didn’t anticipate Afghanistan’s cities to fall to the Taliban as quickly as they did as American troops left the country.
The U.S. has deployed thousands of troops to the country to assist with evacuating U.S. and allied personnel, as well as Afghans who have helped America and those at special risk from the Taliban advance.
Stunning video continues to come out of Afghanistan, showing crowds of people desperate to flee the country. At Kabul’s international airport, thousands of Afghans were seen rushing onto the tarmac and some clung to an American military jet as it took off and plunged to their death. U.S. officials have confirmed that at least seven people died in that chaos.
Although Biden is facing criticism for the way the U.S. has withdrawn from Afghanistan, the president is standing by his decision to end the nation’s longest war.
In a statement released over the weekend, Biden said he inherited a deal cut by former President Donald Trump, which left the Taliban in the strongest position militarily since 2001 and imposed a May 1, 2021, deadline on U.S. forces.
“Therefore, when I became President, I faced a choice—follow through on the deal, with a brief extension to get our forces and our allies’ forces out safely, or ramp up our presence and send more American troops to fight once again in another country’s civil conflict. I was the fourth President to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan—two Republicans, two Democrats. I would not, and will not, pass this war onto a fifth,” wrote Biden.