Fort Pickett in Virginia has released its last Afghan evacuees, the Biden administration announced Wednesday, leaving just two military bases still housing people airlifted in August.
All told, 68,000 evacuees have now been processed and set free into the U.S., and six bases that had been housing them have closed their camps. With Fort Pickett’s release, that now includes all three bases in Virginia.
Two bases — Fort McCoy in Wisconsin and Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey — still hold about 8,000 evacuees undergoing processing and release as part of the government’s Operation Allies Welcome.
The evacuees were given less security scrutiny than refugees but are being treated like refugees now that they’re here, with resettlement assistance from the federal government and from nearly 300 local organizations working to usher the Afghans into new communities.
Things have been a bit rocky, with some of the Afghans struggling to integrate because they lack English skills.
Initially, the evacuation was billed as a chance to help Afghans who assisted the U.S. war effort, but less than half of the 78,000 people airlifted out appear to fit that description.
Instead, those who tracked the evacuation say the U.S. ended up taking most anyone who was able to reach the Kabul airport amid the chaos of the Afghan government’s collapse and the Taliban’s takeover in August.
Their names were run through American databases and if no red flags were spotted, they were brought to the U.S. under Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas’ parole powers.
Mr. Mayorkas now is trying to streamline the process for gaining permanent status here.
And this week, President Biden announced he would have to tap an additional $1.2 billion to help process and care for the Afghan evacuees.
The Washington Times reported last week on the impact on local communities surrounding the bases where the Afghans have been kept.
Monroe County, home to Fort McCoy, said it has lost some revenue because of tax-free government purchases and has experienced a surge in trash — truckloads more per week — because of the additional food being consumed by the evacuees.
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The county is hoping the federal government will reimburse the community for unforeseen costs.