The Biden administration is planning to house up to 30,000 Afghan refugees, according to a new report.
However, as scenes of chaos at the Kabul airport resonated around the world on Monday, it was uncertain how many Afghan civilians who could be marked for death under Taliban rule would escape.
Thousands of civilians served as translators for U.S. forces or otherwise helped America’s 20-year battle against the Taliban.
When and if they arrive, they could be housed at bases including Fort McCoy in Wisconsin and Fort Bliss in Texas.
“The situation in Afghanistan may lead to [Department of State] allowing Afghan SIV applicants to be moved to temporary housing locations while still being vetted for parolee status,” the documents said.
“We want to have the capacity to get up to several thousand immediately, and want to be prepared for the potential of tens of thousands,” Pentagon Spokesperson John Kirby told Fox News.
“Bliss and McCoy have the capability right now — and what’s advantageous is with a little bit of work, they could increase their capacity in very short order.”
Kirby said American citizens will not be given priority over Afghan SIV applicants when it comes to boarding evacuation flights leaving panic-stricken Kabul.
“Once we get more airlift out of Kabul, we’re going to put as many people on those planes as we can. There will be a mix, not just American citizens, but perhaps some Afghan SIV applicants as well,” Kirby said.
“We’re going to focus on getting people out of the country, then sorting it out at the next stop. It’s not going to be just Americans first, then SIV applicants. We’re going to focus on getting as many folks out as we can.”
Roughly 6,000 U.S. troops are expected to be in Kabul to keep the airport open.
“We are already basically in charge of air traffic control at the airport, so we’re going to be in oversight of the air operations at the airport for as long as we can,” Kirby said.
“We have been notified that we will be receiving these Special Immigrant Visa applicants,” said Tonya Townsell, a spokeswoman for Fort McCoy, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “I don’t know when these guests of ours will be arriving exactly, but anytime it can turn.”
“We are prepared to accept this mission, and we expect it to be very successful,” she said.
On Monday, Kabul’s international airport was “a scene of desperation, sadness and panic,” according to The New York Times.
At times, the flood of civilians swamped efforts to control the crowds, as civilians rushed the tarmac, some making it aboard departing military aircraft.
Evacuations were halted Monday afternoon and resumed in the evening.
As the day wore on, the Taliban began appearing at the airport.
The Times reported some witnesses said the Taliban was controlling who could get in on the civilian side of the airport, which meant it determined who could escape.
One international worker was reportedly told no one would be allowed to leave the country now without approval from the “new government.”
In addition to the United States, other nations are bracing for a flood of refugees. Canada has said it will take 20,000 refugees, while European nations have requested talks to develop a coordinated response to the expected influx.
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