Cost for Afghan Refugees at Bases Reaches $688 Million, Pentagon Says

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Afghan evacuees embrace before they board a bus and depart
Afghan evacuees embrace before they board a bus and depart for the airport, January 10, 2022. The evacuees are leaving Fort Pickett on their way to resettle in various cities across the United States. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist John Pearl)

The military's total cost for housing tens of thousands of Afghan refugees at U.S. bases has already topped $688 million, according to the Defense Department.

The most recent figure accounts for refugee villages set up at eight bases from August through mid-December, the department told Military.com on Wednesday. The cost is certain to rise as about 19,500 Afghans remain on installations awaiting permanent resettlement.

More than 76,000 refugees arrived in the U.S. as part of Operation Allies Welcome when Kabul fell to the Taliban and the military ended its 20-year campaign in war-torn Afghanistan. Many of the refugees worked with U.S. forces, and the U.S. military undertook one of the largest airlifts in history to bring them to safety.

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The cost is a drop in the bucket compared to this year's $741 billion budget for defense. Congress has already passed $13.3 billion in funding for the resettlement effort, which supports the Pentagon as well as the Department of Homeland Security, State Department, and Department of Health and Human Services.

But the military services are also dealing with an oncoming budget crisis. Congress has yet to agree on spending legislation for the current fiscal year, which began in September, and may punt on funding the entire rest of the year after a series of stopgap measures divided Democrats and Republicans.

The budget stalemate must be worked out by next month, when the current short-term funding expires.

The cost has also riled some Republicans in Congress. Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., opposed the approved funding, saying it was more than the entire budget of his home state, which has over 4 million residents.

Afghans remain at five U.S. bases. The number reported by DHS at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, is 9,700; Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, 4,400; Fort Pickett, Virginia, 2,700; Camp Atterbury, Indiana, 1,100; and Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, 1,600.

Meanwhile, three bases have wrapped up missions housing the Afghan men, women and children. Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia housed and helped resettle 3,755 Afghans.

The Marine base created housing at an old officer candidate school and built tent facilities, provided three daily meals, internet services and educational classes. The effort was managed by 924 DoD personnel, according to an inspector general report.

The total cost for Quantico was $188 million, the IG found. The DoD watchdog is conducting a series of audits on the resettlement program.

-- Travis Tritten can be reached at travis.tritten@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @Travis_Tritten.

Related: Thousands of Afghans Remain Housed on US Bases Months After the Fall of Kabul

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