40,000 From Afghanistan Airlift Have Entered United States: Official

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Some 40,000 people airlifted from Afghanistan have arrived in the United States, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Friday.

U.S. troops flew or facilitated the flight of more than 120,000 people from the airport in Kabul during about two-and-a-half weeks through Aug. 30, when the troops withdrew from Afghanistan completely.

Approximately 13 percent of the evacuees that have entered the United States have been U.S. citizens, according to Mayorkas. Another 8 percent were lawful permanent residents. The rest were Special Immigrant Visa holders or applicants or other Afghan nationals deemed vulnerable to Taliban terrorists if they had not been evacuated.

Mayorkas has been using his powers of parole to let in some Afghans who lack a visa, the Department of Homeland Security revealed last week. Mayorkas declined to say how many Afghans have been granted parole.

The evacuees were initially flown from Kabul to U.S. military bases in third countries, such as Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

After vetting by a team of hundreds of government workers, including FBI officials, the cleared evacuees were flown to the United States. Most have been landing at Dulles International Airport in Virginia or Philadelphia International Airport in Pennsylvania.

They are then shuttled to one of eight military bases scattered across the country, including Fort Bliss in Texas and Fort McCoy in Wisconsin.

Approximately 25,600 Afghans were being housed at the military bases as of Sept. 3, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters in Washington.

The military has a capacity across the eight installations for about 36,000 but is working to increase that to at least 50,000. No more bases are expected to be needed to house the evacuees.

About 1,000 Afghans have been resettled, or moved off of bases, according to U.S. Air Force Gen. Glen VanHerck, commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command and Northern Command.

Mayorkas said the number of evacuees is expected to come in above 50,000.

“The number is something I don’t want to estimate because—as I’ve mentioned before—our commitment is an enduring one,” he said. “This is not just a matter of the next several weeks. We will not rest until we have accomplished the ultimate goal of Operation Allies Welcome.”

By Zachary Stieber

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