Refugees from Afghanistan have begun arriving in Texas at Fort Bliss near El Paso — one of three Department of Defense locations where they will remain until their immigration processing is finalized.
Officials with U.S. Army North confirmed Sunday that “a number of Afghans at risk” arrived at Fort Bliss a day earlier and were moved to the Dona Ana Range Complex in New Mexico, where they will be temporarily housed.
Other Afghans have been taken to Fort Lee near Richmond, Va., and Fort McCoy, Wisconsin.
The U.S. military is presently flying Afghans from Kabul to various points around the world. Pentagon officials said Sunday that those evacuated to facilities inside the United States are in the final stages of the State Department-run Special Immigrant Visa program.
The Army is assisting temporary housing operations for the Afghans on U.S. bases. “The 1st Armored Division team is providing the Afghans at Fort Bliss essential support, such as lodging,” Army Col. Martin O’Donnell, with U.S. Army North, told The Washington Times on Sunday. “As you can imagine, there is much activity associated with the arrival.”
The Afghans are part of a still-ongoing evacuation effort following the collapse of the pro-U.S. Afghan government and Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.
Citing security concerns, Col. O’Donnell declined to offer specific details about those who’ve arrived in Texas so far, or information about any future arrivals.
Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, told the El Paso Times newspaper that up to 10,000 Afghan refugees could be sent to Fort Bliss.
Col. O’Donnell said Sunday that Afghans arriving in the United States will remain at military locations “temporarily until the State Department processes their visa applications.”
The Dona Ana Range Complex is a spartan training area located in the high deserts of New Mexico, about 25 miles northwest of Fort Bliss. It can support a variety of missions, including live-fire ranges that can accommodate both tanks and aerial gunnery.
Officials with the 1st Armored Division said they have received an outpouring of requests from people who want to assist the effort to aid the Afghan refugees at Fort Bliss. Until their relief operations are up and running, they are recommending people to reach out to the American Red Cross.
Officials at the Army post have said the Red Cross is seeking volunteers for the mission and especially those with language skills. Pashto and Dari are the most common languages spoken in Afghanistan.