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Afghan evacuees begin arriving Fort Bliss; more expected over next few days

UPDATE: FORT BLISS, Texas -- Afghanistan refugees evacuated by the U.S. government from Kabul began arriving at Fort Bliss on Saturday, with officials saying more arrivals were expected in the coming days.

"This morning, special immigrant visa applicants, their families and other individuals at risk arrived at Fort Bliss," said a statement issued Saturday evening by the Public Affairs Office at Fort Bliss. "We expect these arrivals to continue throughout the day and the coming days."

Bliss is one of three military installations recently tapped by the federal government for temporarily "housing vulnerable Afghans" upon their arrival in the U.S.

While officials didn't say exactly how many refugees were anticipated to be housed at Fort Bliss, they did indicate that a significant number of U.S. Army personnel at the post were being utilized in the effort.

"Approximately 1,000 service members from the 1st Armored Division Headquarters, the Fort Bliss Garrison Headquarters, the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, the 528th Hospital Center, and the 93rd Military Police Battalion, will assemble to provide support to Operation Allies Refuge at Fort Bliss.," said the statement.

ORIGINAL REPORT: WASHINGTON, DC -- So far, 17,000 people have been evacuated from Kabul since Aug. 14, including 2,500 Americans, officials said during a Pentagon briefing on Saturday.

President Biden had previously estimated that up to 15,000 Americans were needing to be evacuated, though Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby acknowledged Saturday that "we don't have a perfect figure of how many are in Afghanistan."

In the last 24 hours, 38 flights -- including six U.S. Military C-17s and 32 charters -- departed from Kabul with approximately 3,800 passengers total, White House officials said. Flights are now headed to Qatar and other destinations.

Three flights arrived at Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C. on Friday night, some carrying Afghans headed to Fort Bliss in El Paso for further processing on Saturday, Gen. Hank Taylor, deputy director of the Joint Staff for Regional Operations, told reporters during the Pentagon briefing with Kirby.

Since the end of July, the U.S. has relocated approximately 22,000 people from Afghanistan, according to the White House.

As officials have previously indicated, plans call for housing evacuated Afghans and their families at three U.S. Army installations in the continental United States. Those locations are El Paso's Fort Bliss along with Fort McCoy in Wisconsin and Fort Lee in Virginia.

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