Photo Credit: Hashoo Foundation USA / CC
Published August 23, 2021
By Bethany Blankley [The Center Square contributor] –
The Fort Bliss army base in El Paso, Texas, is prepared to house at least 10,000 Afghan refugees, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said.
“As many as 10,000 of those Afghans who worked alongside their American partners all these many years to try to combat terrorism and make America safe” would be brought to the West Texas base, Cornyn said after a briefing with military officials this week. “My hope is that we can get those people out of Afghanistan that we’ve worked with these past 20 years because if we can’t, many of them will simply be killed along with their families.”
The U.S. Department of Defense said up to 30,000 Afghans who worked with the U.S. military over the past 20 years would be evacuated, with roughly 22,000 split between Fort Bliss in Texas and Fort McCoy in Wisconsin and 8,000 to a third country for processing.
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The announcement came after President Joe Biden set a goal to remove U.S. troops by Aug. 31. Within 11 days of Biden’s announcement, the Taliban terrorist group took over most major cities.
Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby told Fox News, “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. 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 also said Americans wouldn’t necessarily be given priority to leave.
“Once we get more airlift out of Kabul, we’re going to put as many people on those planes as we can,” he said. “There will be a mix, not just American citizens, but perhaps some Afghan SIV applicants as well. 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.”
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has taken to the airwaves and social media blasting the Biden administration’s handling of the fall of Afghanistan. A member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Cruz said, “Enough is enough. First, President Biden and his officials told the American people the Taliban would not advance across Afghanistan. Then, they said despite the Taliban advancing, the United States was conducting a strategic, deliberate, and planned departure, but not a full evacuation. Then, they said the United States is trying to evacuate all Americans.”
Cruz was critical of administration officials now saying they can’t bring Americans into Kabul or guarantee safe passage to the airport in Kabul.
“This is entirely unacceptable. Thousands of Americans in Afghanistan are in acute danger and trapped behind Taliban lines,” he said. “If President Biden, Vice President [Kamala] Harris, and administration officials don’t believe they can secure our citizens with what we have in Afghanistan, they must bring in such capabilities. The United States must not and will not leave our citizens behind Taliban lines.”
Cruz said his staff, as well as those of many members of Congress, are working to provide “any and all assistance possible for constituents, their families, and others” who are trying to leave Afghanistan.
A Special Immigrant Visa (SIV), is only made available to Afghan or Iraqi nationals who worked with U.S. military or as translators or interpreters in Iraq or Afghanistan through the Chief of Mission authority. A bill passed by Congress earlier this year increased the number of SIVs to 34,500.
Afghans who don’t qualify for SIVs can apply for a Priority 2 designation, which applies to “groups of special concern designated by the Department of State as having access to the program by virtue of their circumstances and apparent need for resettlement,” the Department of Defense said.
About the Author:
Bethany Blankley is a writer at the Center Square, Patheos/Hedgerow, political analyst and former press secretary at Capitol Hill / NY / WDC. Follow Bethany on Twitter @BethanyBlankley.