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U.S. Department of Defense

July 30, 2021

Statement from Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III on Arrival of First Group of Operation Allies Refuge

I am honored to join President Biden and Secretary Blinken in welcoming the first group of Afghans and their families under Operation Allies Refuge to the United States, and to Fort Lee specifically.

They will now join approximately 75,000 other Afghans who were previously resettled in the U.S. through the Special Immigrant Visa Program over the last decade.

These brave men and women, at great risk to themselves and their families, served alongside U.S. and coalition forces and diplomats to support our operations and prevent Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for terrorism that threatens our homeland.

We have spoken many times about the moral obligation we have to help those who have helped us, and we are fully committed to working closely with our interagency partners to meet that obligation.

In support of the State Department led effort, approximately 300 U.S. service members from several installations, and under the direction of U.S. Northern Command stand ready to provide logistics, temporary lodging, and medical support at Fort Lee.

The Department remains committed to our partnership with Afghanistan, including protecting our diplomatic mission, providing support to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces, and advising Afghan security ministries.

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