FORT LEE – The Biden administration said Wednesday it is ending its Operation Allies Welcome program in Fort Lee following a successful resettlement of the last group of Afghan refugees coming through the post.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, the head of Operation Allies Welcome considered the four-month-long treatment of residents of the war-torn country of Afghanistan a “community-wide effort.” Robert Fenton praised the work of not only the military and civilian personnel who directly helped the refugees here, but also people from the surrounding communities to offer support through food, clothing and morality.
“This historic milestone highlights the ongoing commitment and perseverance we have witnessed in welcoming our Afghan allies to the United States through a community-wide effort,” Fenton said in the statement. “As we end operations at Fort Lee, we are incredibly proud of the cooperation that has led to the resettlement of more than 25,000 vulnerable Afghans, including those who worked on behalf of the United States, to communities throughout our country.”
Fort Lee was the first army post to be chosen to host refugees who were relocated to the United States as part of the military withdrawal from Afghanistan. The majority of those who came to the states had worked with the U.S. military in one way or another during the two decades of presence in the country. The United States expelled them from Afghanistan for fear of the safety of them and their families.
The first group of special immigrant visas [SIV] holders from Afghanistan arrived at Fort Lee on 30 July.
Related:The first wave of Afghan evacuees arrive in Fort Lee on Friday as part of Operation Allies Refuge
Related:Kaine: ‘I wish the entire American public’ could see Fort Lee’s Afghan evacuation work
Originally, Operation Allies Welcome was a joint venture between the state and defense departments. After the last troops were withdrawn from Afghanistan, the helm of the program was handed over to the Federal Department of Homeland Security.
“Our soldiers, sailors, pilots, marines and guards have provided – and continue to provide – steadfast support as part of Operation Allies Welcome,” said U.S. Air Force General Glen D. VanHerck, the U.S. Northern Command overseeing the operation. a declaration. “Last summer, Fort Lee was the first of eight DOD installations to welcome Afghans as they went through the resettlement process, and today the task force at Fort Lee is the first to say goodbye to the Afghans as they move on to their lives in America. ”
Seven other military posts in the United States will continue to host and help treat refugees. Two of them are in Virginia – Fort Pickett in Nottoway County and Marine Base Quantico in Prince William County.
In a tweet shortly after the announcement, Sen. Mark Warner, D-Virginia, expressed gratitude “for the hard work of everyone in Virginia who helped welcome our Afghan allies.”
We have reached a major milestone – the last group of Afghan refugee families living in Fort Lee have been successfully resettled. I am grateful for the hard work of everyone in Virginia who helped welcome our Afghan allies.
Added Senator Tim Kaine, D-Virginia and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “I am extremely proud that Virginia took the lead in supporting our Afghan allies who risked their lives in the service of our nation. I send my deepest gratitude to our brave service members and Virginia community organizations who have worked tirelessly to get our Afghan allies in safety and resettled in their new home. “
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Bill Atkinson (he / he / he) is the daily news coach for USA TODAY’s Southeast Region-Unified Central, which includes Virginia, West Virginia and Central North Carolina. He is based in Petersburg, Virginia. Reach him at [email protected]