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.
“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.