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NEW YORK, NY — Refugees fleeing Afghanistan could soon be processed and temporarily housed inside a JFK Airport cargo building.
U.S. officials spent Monday converting and prepping the site location, the New York Daily News first reported.
The airport’s Building 87 could be the point of arrival to the United States for many Afghans after escaping the Taliban’s quick takeover of Afghanistan following the withdrawal of the U.S. military there.
Sources told the newspaper that the refugees are expected to begin arriving at the building in the coming days.
The last military planes left Kabul on Monday, ending America’s longest war after nearly 20 years. U.S. military aircraft evacuated more than 79,000 civilians from Hamid Karzai International Airport, which includes 6,000 Americans and more than 73,500 third-country nationals and Afghan civilians, the U.S. Department of Defense reported.
“In total, U.S. and coalition aircraft combined to evacuate more than 123,000 civilians, which were all enabled by U.S. military service members who were securing and operating the airfield,” Marine Corps Gen. Frank McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command said from the Pentagon on Monday.
This was the largest non-combatant evacuation operation, which began Aug. 14, ever conducted by the U.S. military, the U.S. Department of Defense confirmed.
While the military evacuation is complete, officials at the Pentagon said that the diplomatic mission to ensure additional U.S. citizens and eligible Afghans who want to leave continues.
“I have asked the Secretary of State to lead the continued coordination with our international partners to ensure safe passage for any Americans, Afghan partners, and foreign nationals who want to leave Afghanistan,” President Joe Biden said in a statement. “The Taliban has made commitments on safe passage, and the world will hold them to their commitments.”
Biden said the measure will also include ongoing diplomacy in Afghanistan and coordination with partners in the region to reopen the airport to allow for continued departure for those who want to leave and for those who wish to deliver humanitarian assistance to the people there.
More than 800,000 American service members and 25,000 civilians served in Afghanistan over the almost 20-year mission. A total of 2,461 U.S. service members and civilians were killed and more than 20,000 were injured.