By MIKE CATALINI Associated Press
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — The first group of Afghan refugees to be airlifted to New Jersey arrived overnight at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, a military spokesperson said on Wednesday.
More are expected to continue arriving in “the coming days,” according to Senior Airman Ariel Owings.
The number of refugees that will be housed in New Jersey and for how long isn’t clear, but on Tuesday, military officials proposed setting up enough shelter for up to 9,500 Afghan nationals for up to a year.
Gov. Phil Murphy said earlier this week that the arrival of a significant number of Afghans was imminent. Afghan evacuees are being housed at four military bases in the United States.
In addition to New Jersey’s joint base, they’re heading to Fort McCoy, Wisconsin; Fort Bliss, Texas; and Fort Lee, Virginia.
“Task Force McGuire-Dix continues to build capacity here as U.S. Army North, U.S. Northern Command and the Department of Defense work to build additional capacity at Fort Lee, Fort Bliss, Fort McCoy, and potentially other military locations, as required,” Owings said.
Since Aug. 14, when the Taliban seized the Afghan capital of Kabul, more than 82,000 people have been evacuated from the country in one of the biggest U.S. airlifts in history.
The pace has increased, and it’s still chaotic as people seek to leave the country. Afghans trying to reach the Kabul airport face a number of dangers, and there are more who want to leave than will be able to.
Those that make it out will face resettlement challenges, either in the U.S. or somewhere else, and time is short. President Joe Biden set an Aug. 31 deadline to complete the U.S.-led evacuation.
Murphy, a Democrat, has said the state would do what it can to help the evacuees but stopped short of laying out any details. Murphy said Monday that if history is any guide, many of those will move on to states with larger Afghan populations, like California and Virginia.