The Air Force general tasked with overseeing U.S. Northern Command said on Friday the U.S. military is “prepared to house and feed” the incoming Afghan refugees “as long as it takes” to get them settled.
“They’re coming here, starting over with what they bring with them,” Gen. Glen VanHerck told reporters. “We’ve been incredibly well supported by the local communities and non-governmental organizations, etc., that have jumped in to help these families with things of need such as diapers, formula, clothing, you name it.
“We have been tremendously blessed to have overwhelming support.”
Over 21,000 Afghan refugees have arrived at several U.S. airports and military bases since evacuations from Afghanistan were initiated less than two weeks ago.
Up to 50,000 refugees are expected to arrive stateside by Sept. 15, VanHerck confirmed Friday.
The Air Force general explained that the refugees will be permitted to stay in their “soft” and “hard shelters” for as long as it takes the State Department to complete the Special Immigrant Visa process.
The military is providing medical support and every individual who lands in the U.S. is being scanned for the coronavirus.
VanHerck estimated that roughly a third of all refugees coming over are children and he said that community-based initiatives at each location have supplied coloring books, educational opportunities, and sporting supplies for the children.
The Department of Defense is also working with community members to ensure that all refugees are provided with “culturally appropriate food, water, bedding, religious services, recreational activities, and other services such as transportation from the port of entry to the location of accommodations,” explained VanHerck.
“I saw the operations first hand,” he said, describing visits to three separate military bases now housing Afghans. “I’ve proudly watched our U.S. personal operating with compassion as they helped Afghans and their families who have done so much for the United States and our allies through two decades of conflict.”
The general said that soldiers at Fort Bliss had also erected a soccer pitch for the kids to practice and play on.
“It’s a privilege to be executing this mission for those who have helped us – oftentimes for a couple of decades,” VanHerck said. “We’re prepared to do this as long as it takes to ensure that we get them settled here.”
Over 105,000 Americans and Afghans have been evacuated from Afghanistan since Aug. 14, though it remains unclear how many more are attempting to flee the Taliban-ridden nation by the Aug. 31 deadline.