This is from Jacqui Heinrich, White House correspondent for FoxNews via a twitter thread.
NEW, thread: Pentagon confirms to me the Department of Defense is preparing to house thousands of Afghan refugees on American military installations, immediately including Fort McCoy in Wisconsin and Fort Bliss in Texas. Documents obtained from a source show DoD planning to potentially relocate up to 30,000 Afghan SIV applicants into the United States in the immediate future.
“The situation in Afghanistan may lead to DoS [Department of State] allowing Afghan SIV applicants to be moved to temporary housing locations while still being vetted for parolee status,” the document reads. “We want to have capacity to get up to several thousand immediately, and want to be prepared for potential of tens of thousands,” Pentagon Spox John Kirby tells me. “Bliss & McCoy have capability right now – what’s advantageous is w/ a bit of work, could increase in short order.”
The move is a reversal from the Biden administration’s previous policy. On July 8th, President Biden told me the US government could not evacuate Afghan translators to the US to await visa processing like some migrants at the southern border. “The law doesn’t allow that to happen. And that’s why we’re asking Congress to consider changing the law,” Biden said.
Kirby says American citizens will not be given priority evacuation over Afghan SIV applicants. “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. 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,” Kirby tells me.
Some 6,000 US troops are expected in Kabul with the objective of keeping the airport open to achieve that goal. Kirby tells me, “We are already basically in charge of air traffic control at the airport, so we’re going to be in oversight of the air ops for as long as we can.”
The State Department will determine who is sent forward – the job of the military is to find facilities and infrastructure for refugees to sleep and receive food and medical care during processing. The Pentagon is working closely with the State Department to find overseas and possibly domestic processing locations for additional Afghan refugees who do not qualify for SIV status, falling instead under P-2 and P-1 visas.
“Secretary Austin has made it very clear to the Department and to military leaders that he wants additional options,” Kirby said. “We all share a sense of urgency and we’re going to be leaning forward to help the State Department as much as we can.” As for how much longer the military presence will remain tenable, Kirby says, “The President gave us August 31st as an end date, so that’s what we’re focused on.”
Comment: This is probably what Biden and his generals were frantically planning over the weekend at Camp David. Good. Too bad it’s now up to the Taliban whether this plan can be executed. This should have been planned right after Biden’s inauguration and implemented while we still controlled Baghram and whatever other airfields we had in Afghanistan. That we couldn’t anticipate the total collapse of the ANA and the corrupt Kabul leadership, or at least plan for that contingency, is a monumental failure for Biden, his DoD, his DOS and, yes, his IC. He has no reasonable choice but to fully own this failure. I agree with English Outsider’s comment of earlier today. “The manner of the American withdrawal from Afghanistan, and of ours, is deplorable, but the withdrawal itself can only be welcomed.”