The Pentagon on Wednesday acknowledged that Afghan refugees are facing problems at U.S. military bases where they are being held until they are screened and released.
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said the Pentagon is “certainly aware” of reports that Afghan refugees lack food and clothing, and that some women are being harassed by former Afghan soldiers. Kirby said:
We’re certainly aware of these reports [and] we take it very, very seriously. There are — the — especially in a place like Fort McCoy with winter coming on, and so, NORTHCOM is very mindful of the needs of the weather and the climate and making sure that the evacuees have a safe, clean, warm living environment while they continue this processing.
But we’re mindful about this at all installations here domestically that we have a responsibility to provide that kind of an environment for these individuals and their families to be able to subsist while they continue to work through the immigration process. And again, we’re taking it seriously. I know of no specific request today to conduct an investigation, but the secretary is certainly mindful of the reports.
He added that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is “comfortable” that Northern Command commander Air Force Gen. Glen D. VanHerck “also is mindful of these issues and will continue to work closely with our interagency partners to alleviate any concerns there might be.”
Kirby said military base commanders are responsible for the bases, including the physical environment, housing, and sustenance issues including medical care, recreation facilities, child care, and religious accommodations.
“Our job is the housing and making sure that there’s a safe environment, a safe and secure environment, for them to complete the processing,” he said.
Asked about reports of “serious problems” at Fort McCoy, Kirby responded:
Yeah, I know and I understand that. And I said we’re aware of these reports too. We’re taking them all seriously. Gen. VanHerck is very much mindful of what our responsibilities are in terms of the safe and secure environment. And we take it all seriously. I can’t speak with specificity to each and every one of these reports.
As Breitbart News reported earlier Wednesday, two Afghan men at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin were federally charged for child sex crimes and domestic abuse.
The Justice Department announced federal charges against Afghans Bahrullah Noori, 20-years-old, and Mohammad Haroon Imaad, 32-years-old.
According to prosecutors, Noori is accused of trying to forcefully engage in sexual acts with a minor while temporarily living at Fort McCoy since being brought to the U.S. with tens of thousands of other Afghans. Noori has also been charged with three counts of engaging in a sexual act with a minor and one count alleging the use of force.
An indictment against Noori states that his victims were under the age of 16 and were at least four years younger than him.
In a separate incident, Imaad is accused by prosecutors of strangling and suffocating his wife while temporarily living at Fort McCoy after arriving in the U.S. from Afghanistan. The alleged assault apparently took place on September 7.
Both Noori and Imaad appeared in court in Madison, Wisconsin, six days ago, on September 16 to face the charges against them and are currently being detained at the Dane County Jail. Their immigration statuses, whether they arrived as refugees, Special Immigrant Visa-holders (SIVs), P-2 visa-holders, or parolees remains unclear.
Noori is facing a mandatory minimum of 30 years in prison and a maximum sentence of life in prison. Imaad is facing a maximum of 10 years in prison.
According to the Associated Press on September 3, more than 8,000 refugees from Afghanistan were being temporarily housed at Fort McCoy.
Kirby said Northcom has about 53,000 Afghan refugees it is temporarily housing, and that it has capacity for over 60,000.