WASHINGTON — Weeks after their dramatic escape from Kabul, tens of hundreds of Afghans hoping to be resettled within the United States stay on military bases throughout the nation and abroad as medical and safety screenings gradual the method.
A small but worrisome measles outbreak has contributed to the delays, inflicting a halt in evacuation flights as federal officers scramble to include instances and inoculate new arrivals in opposition to the illness and different sicknesses, together with the coronavirus.
As of Sept. 14, about 64,000 evacuees from Afghanistan had arrived within the United States. The overwhelming majority had been in danger underneath Taliban rule after the U.S. withdrawal from the nation final month. Nearly 49,000 live on eight home military bases, ready to be resettled within the United States, in keeping with an inner federal doc obtained by The New York Times. Roughly 18,000 are on bases abroad, largely in Germany. Some go away inside weeks, however most keep longer.
The screenings, which contain an array of federal businesses, observe a condensed and harried evacuation effort final month shortly earlier than the United States accomplished its withdrawal from Afghanistan. About 100 Americans who need to go away, and an unknown quantity of weak Afghans, stay within the nation.
Antony J. Blinken, the secretary of state, defended the Biden administration’s evacuation operation throughout hours of congressional testimony this week, which included calls from Republican critics for his resignation and expenses that the administration did not adequately plan for the Afghan authorities’s collapse to the Taliban.
Mr. Blinken mentioned there was no deadline for getting individuals out of the nation and that “in the end, we completed one of the biggest airlifts in history, with 124,000 people evacuated to safety.”
While Afghan evacuees have escaped the Taliban, their lives stay in limbo, with stressed youngsters and little to do on the bases throughout the United States, together with Fort McCoy in Wisconsin, the place greater than 12,700 individuals had been being housed as of final week, and Fort Bliss in Texas, which has obtained greater than 9,700.
“We will be here one month or more,” mentioned Milad Darwesh, who arrived Saturday at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey after touring for days to achieve the United States. There are almost 8,000 evacuees on the base.
Mr. Darwesh mentioned he and his household narrowly escaped Kabul in a harrowing journey with the Taliban on their heels to the gates of the airport there. They spent 4 days in Doha, Qatar, together with hundreds of different evacuees, with little water for ingesting or washing. He and his household had been then transported to an airplane hangar at a base in Italy earlier than lastly making it to Fort Dix.
“It’s nice here,” mentioned Mr. Darwesh, a former military translator who has been ready for 2 years to have his visa processed. “We now have our own room.”
Zainullah Zaki, who’s touring together with his household, landed in Qatar on Aug. 18 and traveled on to Germany, the place he has been advised over and over that he could be on a flight “in days.”
“Because of measles, all the flights are paused right now,” John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, mentioned on Wednesday about these nonetheless on military installations abroad. “So nobody is going anywhere. But our goal has been to try and move them as quickly as possible. We know that these men and women and their families want to get on with their lives.”
Seven measles instances had been found amongst Afghans on the home military bases. Very few evacuees have examined optimistic for the coronavirus, in keeping with a Sept. 10 inner authorities replace. Afghan nationals settling within the United States are required to have a collection of vaccinations, that are being given at military bases within the United States and can quickly be administered abroad as effectively.
Understand the Taliban Takeover in Afghanistan
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Many evacuees have arrived at Dulles International Airport in Virginia, and hospitals within the state have complained to the federal authorities that they’ve been overwhelmed by Afghans in want of medical remedy. Health care suppliers have requested for monetary help, and Virginia’s two senators, Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine, each Democrats, despatched a letter to Biden administration officers pushing for higher coordination.
“Virginia ambulances and hospitals, already occupied with regular patient needs and dealing with the additional stress of Covid, have done superb work to partner with federal agencies managing this processing effort and make sure that emergency health needs of our Afghan partners are met,” Katie Stuntz, a spokeswoman for Mr. Kaine, mentioned. “The health providers deserve reimbursement for this work, and Senator Kaine is working with all stakeholders to make sure that happens.”
Refugee teams have scrambled for weeks to organize for giant numbers of Afghan refugees however to this point have seen solely a trickle of individuals able to be resettled.
“In last few weeks, we served more than 100 people,” mentioned Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, the chief government of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, a resettlement company that has associates in 22 states. “Some are coming with little more than a backpack. We know the importance of an orderly system that processes and prepares these new Afghan arrivals, helping them make informed decisions on where they ultimately want to resettle.”
Ned Price, a State Department spokesman, mentioned on Wednesday that the administration was attempting to maneuver the evacuees off military bases “as quickly and efficiently as we can.”
“We would like to see them resettled in communities,” Mr. Price mentioned. “So it is not in our interest, it’s not in their interest for them to reside on a U.S. military base or any other official installation for any longer than is necessary, and I think you’ll see that we’re able to administer these vital steps with a good deal of efficiency.”
U.S. military service members have been supporting Afghans at bases by elevating funds and delivering objects akin to prenatal nutritional vitamins, dietary dietary supplements and clothes. Many nonprofits, together with Armed Services YMCA and the Catholic Diocese of El Paso, have additionally been serving to, however the distribution of provides has been gradual as a result of of a dearth of personnel.
Miriam Jordan contributed reporting from Los Angeles, and Michael Crowley from Washington.