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Wisconsin's Fort McCoy preparing to receive refugees from Afghanistan
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Wisconsin's Fort McCoy preparing to receive refugees from Afghanistan

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Fort McCoy

Fort McCoy, a U.S. Army base near Sparta, could house Afghans who helped American and coalition troops during the war and are now fleeing the Taliban's retaking of their country.

Fort McCoy, a U.S. Army installation near Sparta, is preparing to accept an unknown number of refugees from Afghanistan who are fleeing in the wake of the collapse of the Afghanistan government to the Taliban.

Saturday marked the beginning of the end of America's war in Afghanistan, 20 years after U.S. forces went there in pursuit of al-Queda terrorists following the September 11, 2001 attacks.  

As the United States ends its mission there, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and other outlets have reported that Fort McCoy is preparing to accept special immigrant visa applicants, but few other details were available.

"We have been notified that we will be receiving these special immigrant visa applicants," Fort McCoy spokesperson Tonya Townsell told the Journal Sentinel. "I don't know when these guests of ours will be arriving exactly, but anytime it can turn."

A McCoy spokesperson later declined a request for comment and referred the Wisconsin State Journal to the U.S. Department of Defense.

A DOD spokesperson confirmed that Fort McCoy is under consideration as a site to provide temporary housing for Afghan special immigration visa applicants and their families.

"On Sunday, August 15th, Defense Secretary Austin approved two requests for assistance from the State Department to transport and temporarily house Afghan Special Immigration Visa applicants, their families, and other individuals at risk," Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said in a statement.

Kirby said the U.S. is planning to provide support for up to 22,000 at-risk individuals within three to four weeks at Fort Lee in Virginia and two other military installations. Kirby declined to name the institutions as the Pentagon works through the notification process.

Under the arrangement, the U.S. would provide temporary housing and other support. A DOD spokesperson added that while final locations haven't been chosen, assessment teams are currently on the ground at Fort Bliss in Texas and Fort McCoy to determine whether the facilities meet requirements.

Kirby said the U.S. also plans to provide air transportation for about 8,000 other at-risk individuals to facilities located in a third partner nation.

About 2,500 civilians and 450 military personnel work at Fort McCoy, which is located on about 60,000 acres between Sparta and Tomah, in Monroe County. 

The U.S. in recent weeks has been working to evacuate Afghan translators, interpreters and others who worked for the U.S. during its 20-year war there.

Jewish Social Services of Madison, which is part of the U.S. refugee resettlement network, is preparing to aid with resettlement efforts of refugees who may be coming to the Madison area.

Jewish Social Services executive director Dawn Berney said she's waiting on more information about when refugees would arrive at Fort McCoy. She said some refugees at Fort McCoy who have connections to the area may be moved here, but many may be settled elsewhere across the country.

Berney said her agency has helped resettle 61 Afghan refugees, most of whom worked for the U.S. government or military, or an associated contractor, since 2017.  


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