FORT LEE, Va. (WRIC) — Sen. Tim Kaine met with Afghan refugees at Fort Lee on Monday. After meeting with them Kaine held a press conference to give an update on the situation in Afghanistan and the temporary stay of Afghans who have already made it to Virginia.
He said he wished the entire American public could see what he saw and hear what he heard while there. Refugees told him that upon arrival at the airport and at Fort Lee they were met with applause.
The refugees which Kaine said are mostly young parents and young kids that have been through significant amounts of trauma, are staying at Fort Lee to sort out documents and health-related needs.
Everyone staying at Fort Lee is at a different stage of the visa and immigration process. During their temporary stay at the fort they are making the necessary next steps to stay in the U.S. long term and are planning on where to resettle.
Kaine said Virginia, California, Texas, Maryland and Washington State all already have Afghan communities where people may be interested in moving to.
Fort Lee is working to address any health-related concerns people may have upon arrive in the United States. That includes testing all refugees for COVID-19, screening for tuberculosis and providing any needed vaccines. There have also already been two childbirths at Fort Lee since refugees began arriving.
Government organizations and non-governmental organizations have been working to help these refugees meet their needs during this transition time. Kaine said he has seen a “tremendous outpouring of community support” from Virginians. He has been contacted both through his office and personally by many people asking what can they do to help.
He says the generous response speaks well to Virginians and their understanding of the U.S. military mission.
“Virginians understand that includes standing with partners that stood with us,” Kaine said.
The official military withdrawal from Afghanistan is Tuesday but Kaine doesn’t see that as the end of Afghan refugees coming to the U.S.
Kaine said going forward efforts to evacuate Afghans will be a diplomatic mission handled mostly by the Department of Homeland Security. This will include getting people out of Afghanistan as well as helping people who have escaped to third countries come to the U.S.
When questioned on his personal view of Biden’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan, Kaine said he supported the decision and that the next chapter in Afghanistan is dependent on the Afghan government. He said 20 years was enough time spent training Afghan military forces.
He also said he supported Biden’s decision to move the withdrawal from May to August, explaining that leaving in May would’ve been much worse.
Military action against the Taliban may be at a standstill but Kaine says action against ISIS and ISIS-K is not. There will be ongoing military operations against ISIS after the bombings in Kabul that claimed the lives of many Afghans and over a dozen U.S. service members.
One drone strike has already been made, killing two members of ISIS-K. Kaine said he is still waiting on a full report detailing if any civilian lives had been claimed during the drone strike.
Watch the full press conference below: