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Fort McCoy In Wisconsin Holding Largest Population Of Afghan Evacuees

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO/CBS News) -- As of right now, about 20,000 Afghan refugees are being housed at military installations in five states, including Wisconsin.

The military base with the largest population of Afghan evacuees is currently Fort McCoy in western Wisconsin. As of Wednesday morning, there were about 6,400 Afghans housed there, with a total capacity of 10,000.

Two sources familiar with the Fort McCoy operations told CBS News the Defense Department planned to increase the total capacity to 13,000.

The expected timeline for processing these Afghan evacuees through Fort McCoy and the other military bases is 14 to 21 days. However, the timeline could be longer at Fort McCoy.

Republican members of Congress in Wisconsin who were recently briefed at the fort said most of the Afghans at Fort McCoy were not SIV applicants, the process reserved for Afghans who directly assisted the U.S. military effort during the 20-year Afghanistan war.

"Our understanding is that nobody who has come through the gates here at Fort McCoy is a SIV holder," Congressman Mike Gallagher told reporters last Friday, adding that some Afghans may be "midway through the process" of obtaining such a visa.

Collectively, the sites in Wisconsin, Virginia, New Mexico, New Jersey and Indiana can house approximately 32,000 evacuees, but officials have been instructed to expand that capacity to 50,000 spots by Sept. 15.

Minnesotans have played a major role in evacuating as many as possible from Afghanistan. Two weeks ago, 400 members of Minnesota's National Guard moved from Kuwait to Kabul. Their mission was to help secure the outer wall of the airport there.

"They went in and executed very professionally. They were successful in their mission and thank goodness all of them were able to depart Afghanistan healthy," Col. Tim Kemp said.

All 400 soldiers are now back in Kuwait to keep training. The Guard says they will be ready if they're called upon again.

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