The United States is holding about 20,000 Afghan evacuees on US soil, the Pentagon said Wednesday, and tens of thousands more are reportedly being held at US military bases abroad with the prospect of entry contemplated.
Afghans in the United States are spread across eight military bases, General Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters on Wednesday.
CBS News reported that those bases have a capacity to house 30,000, but have been ordered to find space for a total of 50,000. CBS also reported that in addition to the Afghans already here, about 40,000 more are on military bases abroad.
At Ft. McCoy in Wisconsin, which was home to about 3,000 people over the weekend, a capacity had been scheduled for 10,000, but has been told to prepare for a total of 13,000 people, according to Rep. Tom Tiffany, a Republican. from Wisconsin who visited the base last week.
“I am deeply concerned that they are going to crowd the base and all the things that can go along with that,” the lawmaker told The Washington Times.
He said the Americans had been told that the evacuation mission was aimed at helping Afghans who assisted in the US war effort and for whom a special visa is available. But it seems that almost everyone in the United States has now been subjected to what is known as parole, a special power that the Secretary of Homeland Security has to admit people for humanitarian or national interest reasons.
“They have so many people and this is so badly planned that they are just trying to find a home for everyone they are trying to bring to the United States,” he said.
Tiffany said Afghans should stay in a safe third country until their special visa process is completed.
Biden administration officials said they evacuated more than 120,000 people from Afghanistan between mid-July and the end of US operations on Monday. But the administration has been quiet about who was among that mass of people.
By releasing those people to the US, the Biden administration has cut significant shortcuts in what would have been the usual path for Afghans.
They are no longer refugees as they are in the US Some can still be processed for the special visa, while others can apply for asylum, which is similar to refugee status.