Fort McCoy could house as many as 3,000 Afghan refugees by end of day Friday

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Wisconsin's Fort McCoy could house up to 3,000 Afghan refugees by the end of the day Friday, as the U.S. races to evacuate those at risk in Afghanistan.

The facility housed about 2,000 refugees Friday afternoon, Republican members of Wisconsin's congressional delegation said during a news conference at the military base, an increase from the 1,000 people that arrived on Sunday.

U.S. Reps. Tom Tiffany, Bryan Steil, Scott Fitzgerald, Mike Gallagher and Glenn Grothman briefly toured Fort McCoy, where they met with government officials and those in charge of the intake program. They said they saw children playing with military members on the base, some adults talking on their phones and people going about life at the base.

"We saw what makes our country so great, we saw our troops here providing comfort and aid to individuals who escaped from Afghanistan," Steil said.

The group also expressed concern over President Joe Biden's handling of the situation in Afghanistan, and how many refugees are being allowed into the U.S.

As many as 10,000 people could be housed at Fort McCoy as the U.S. races to reach its Aug. 31 deadline to remove all of its troops, citizens and other vulnerable people.

More: 'Day of reckoning': GOP unified in blaming Biden for Afghanistan bombing, divided on refugees and next steps

All of those coming into the U.S. from Afghanistan have gone through security vetting before entering the country, White House officials said Monday. Upon arrival, all are tested for COVID-19. Those who test positive will have access to space to quarantine.

Officials are also working to ensure all refugees have access to COVID-19 vaccines, as well.

Once the refugees arrive at Fort McCoy, they are subject to a full health exam to ensure their wellness.

Fort McCoy is located on 60,000 acres between Tomah and Sparta.

More: Afghanistan latest: Another Kabul attack 'is likely', with 'credible threat' at airport

The massive evacuation from Afghanistan is one of the largest airlifts in history, and in order to get people to safety, Fort McCoy is one of the places accepting refugees and giving them temporary shelter before a resettlement agency can help them.

Refugees began arriving Sunday after fleeing the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Those coming to the base are a mix of those with special immigrant visa applications that have reached a certain point in the acceptance process, submitted by those who worked along U.S. troops in Afghanistan, as well as other vulnerable populations being evacuated, including women, journalists, professors and attendees of girls' schools.

About 1,000 service members from multiple units of the U.S. Army and Army Reserve are slated to assemble at the base to provide support to the refugees, in a mission dubbed "Operation Allies Refuge."

The population at the base will fluctuate as people come and go. Refugees won't be housed there long-term, but will stay until resettlement agencies can help find individuals and families new homes either in Wisconsin or elsewhere, depending on whether they have family, job proximity or other needs.

Laura Schulte can be reached at leschulte@jrn.com and on Twitter at @SchulteLaura.

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Fort McCoy in Wisconsin could house as many as 3,000 Afghan refugees

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