Pentagon to Bring Afghans to US Base While Awaiting Visas

An Afghan interpreter rests.
An interpreter rests near a wall in Ahmaday, Ghazni province, Afghanistan, July 7, 2012. (Spc. Andrew Baker/Combat Camera Afghanistan)

The Pentagon is planning to house about 2,500 Afghans who served in interpreter or other jobs for the United States, and their family members, at stateside locations after they are evacuated from Afghanistan.

The first Afghans who arrive in the United States will go to Fort Lee, Virginia, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said at a news briefing Monday, but others could go to other military installations that have yet to be identified. 

Kirby said that the military recommended Fort Lee as the first location after the State Department formally asked for stateside locations where evacuated Afghans could wait while they go through the final steps of the Special Immigrant Visa, or SIV, process. Those steps include medical screenings and other administrative requirements, he said.

Read Next: GOP Lawmakers Introduce Narrow Bill to Fund the National Guard as It Nears Total Shutdown

"We're going to give these people a safe place to stay for a few days while they finish the processing ... before they can then be resettled elsewhere in the United States," Kirby said. "It goes back to our responsibility that we feel, to take care of these people who have taken care of us. So obviously, we want to make them as comfortable as possible."

The Afghans will receive housing, food and water, and medical care including COVID-19 screenings, he said. They likely will stay at Fort Lee only a few days, and the fort will not build any additional housing, Kirby said. 

Of the 2,500 evacuees coming to the United States under Operation Allies Refuge, 700 are SIV applicants who have already completed the security vetting process, and the remainder are their family members, he added.

The White House said last week it plans to begin evacuating some Afghans by the end of July. As the military continues its withdrawal process from Afghanistan, which is largely completed but expected to be formally concluded by the end of August, pressure has mounted on the administration to evacuate some 18,000 Afghans and their families who served as interpreters and in other jobs.

Those Afghans now face potential reprisal from the Taliban, who have a history of kidnapping and brutally murdering those who worked with the U.S. military.

In a news release, Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., praised the administration for its decision.

"For two decades, thousands of Afghans have put their own lives and safety in danger in order to work with U.S. and allied personnel to fight al Qaida, the Haqqani network, ISIS and other terrorist groups," Warner said in a release. "Their efforts contributed to the decimation of al Qaida and its ability to attack the U.S. homeland. I applaud the President and his administration for acting to help bring these individuals to safety, and encourage further swift action to help the thousands of other Afghans and their family members who remain at risk because of their support for the U.S. mission in Afghanistan."

Kirby said all 2,500 might not go to Fort Lee, and the military is looking at other potential locations within the United States.

He added that the military is preparing to evacuate more Afghans than just this initial tranche.

"Clearly, we are planning for greater numbers than just this initial 2,500," Kirby said. "But what that looks like over time, I just couldn't be able to predict right now."

-- Stephen Losey can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @StephenLosey.

Related: White House: 'Operation Allies Refuge' to Start Evacuating Afghans by End of July

Story Continues