New Jersey Military Base to Be Used to House Afghan Evacuees: Pentagon

Evacuees began arriving at another base on Aug. 22
By Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Reporter
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. news, including politics and court cases. He started at The Epoch Times as a New York City metro reporter.
August 23, 2021 Updated: August 24, 2021

A military base in New Jersey will house evacuees from Afghanistan as the United States works on flying tens of thousands of Afghans from the Taliban-held country.

Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, about 39 miles northeast of Philadelphia, is the fourth base that is preparing to or already has accepted evacuees. The other three bases are Fort Lee in Virginia, Fort McCoy in Wisconsin, and Fort Bliss in Texas.

The addition of the fourth site comes as the U.S. military expands its goals in terms of how many evacuees can be housed on the bases.

The top-line number, previously 22,000, is now 25,000.

“With the four bases, what our goal would be is to reach the ability—not necessarily the actual count—but the ability to build out to about 25,000 capacity,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters in Washington. “We aren’t there yet, it’s going to take days and weeks, I think for all four to be able to combine to get to that level.”

Officials at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst didn’t immediately respond to a query about what preparations are being made and when the base will be ready to take in evacuees.

U.S. Northern Command said the base will provide temporary housing for the Afghans, who are arriving on special immigration visas.

Some Afghans arrived at Fort Lee last month. Fort McCoy began accepting Afghans on Aug. 22.

“This afternoon, special immigrant visa applicants, their families, and other individuals at risk arrived here,” Brig. Gen. Chris Norrie, the Task Force McCoy commander, said in a statement.

The number of Afghans who arrived wasn’t made clear and the base didn’t immediately respond to a request for more information.

Approximately 1,000 service members from U.S. Army and Army Reserve units are assembling at the fort to provide support for the evacuees.

Epoch Times Photo
Open bay barracks are being prepared for the arrival of Afghan evacuees at Fort McCoy, Wis., on Aug. 18, 2021. (U.S. Army photo by 1st Sgt. Michel Sauret/326th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)
Epoch Times Photo
A U.S. Air Force aircrew, assigned to the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, assists qualified evacuees aboard a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft in support of the Afghanistan evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Afghanistan, Aug. 21, 2021. The Department of Defense is committed to supporting the U.S. State Department in the departure of U.S. and allied civilian personnel from Afghanistan and to evacuate Afghan allies to safety. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Taylor Crul)

“The Fort McCoy community is proud to join U.S. Army North, U.S. Northern Command, and the Department of Defense team in supporting the State Department with this mission. We look forward to the opportunity to treat our temporary guests with the utmost respect and Wisconsin hospitality as they commence their Special Immigrant Visa process,” Norrie said.

Many lawmakers have expressed support for welcoming Afghans who are fleeing their Taliban-held country, particularly those who have assisted U.S. troops since 2001. But some have expressed concern about how well the evacuees are being vetted.

“I am deeply disturbed by reports that as many as 5,000 Afghans per day are headed to the United States—many without valid visas or even basic identity documents,” Rep. Tom Tiffany (R-Wis.) said in a statement last week.

“Biden administration officials have said they plan to transport many of these individuals to Fort McCoy in Wisconsin—but have declined to elaborate on how many will come, what screening will be carried out prior to arrival, or what will happen after they land here,” he added. “Alarmingly, the White House has also declined to say whether these individuals will be held in custody during vetting, or if we will see the same kind of catch-and-release policy we’ve seen on our southern border.”

Major Gen. Hank Taylor told reporters on Aug. 21 that intelligence, law enforcement, and counterterrorism experts are screening and vetting all Afghan visa applicants before they’re allowed to enter the United States. He didn’t elaborate.

“Anyone arriving in the United States will have undergone a background check,” President Joe Biden said on Aug. 22.

Evacuees aren’t required to test negative for COVID-19 before leaving Afghanistan, according to the State Department.

Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Reporter
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. news, including politics and court cases. He started at The Epoch Times as a New York City metro reporter.