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News | July 29, 2021

FACT SHEET: Department of Defense Support in the Continental United States to Operation Allies Refuge

By U.S. Northern Command Public Affairs


Executive Summary

On July 14, 2021, the White House announced Operation Allies Refuge to support the relocations of interested and eligible Afghan nationals and their immediate families who supported the U.S. Government and applied for a Special Immigrant Visa (SIV). The Department of State (DOS), the lead federal agency for this operation, activated the Afghanistan Coordination Task Force (ACTF) on July 19, 2021 and requested the Department of Defense provide support for up to 3,500 Afghan special immigrant applicants.

This initiative follows through on America’s commitment to Afghan citizens who have helped the United States and provides them essential support at secure locations, where they can complete the SIV process safely.

The health and safety of U.S. personnel and the Afghan special immigrant applicants is paramount. All passengers traveling to the United States on a relocation flight will undergo a thorough pre-flight medical screening including COVID testing, led by DOS. Additionally, Afghan special immigrant applicants will only arrive in the United States once they have completed an intensive, multi-agency security screening process.

Attributable Quote

​“U.S. Northern Command, in support of Department of State, is honored to lead the Department of Defense efforts to this critical mission. In all we do, we will demonstrate our commitment to our Afghan partners and their families who have sacrificed in pursuit of mutual security objectives.” – USNORTHCOM Commander, Gen. Glen VanHerck

DoD Efforts to Date

  • U.S. Northern Command is DoD’s lead combatant command for this mission. 

  • U.S. Northern Command is directly supporting DOS to temporarily provide medical screening, transportation, lodging and general support to DOS for Afghan special immigrant applicants on DoD installations. The DoD approved this request July 22, 2021.

  • U.S. Army North, U.S. Northern Command’s joint force land component command, is the lead operational command for this mission

  • Approximately 300 service members from various installations and agencies have supported the mission to date:

- Approximately 190 Soldiers are providing logistical, sustainment, and interagency support.

- Approximately 50 Marines are supporting garrison access control.

- Approximately 60 Airmen are providing expeditionary medical support.

  • The ground transportation from the airport to Fort Lee, Virginia, will be provided by eight DoD-chartered commercial buses.

Fort Lee, Virginia

  • The initial group of Afghan special immigrant applicants who have completed the security vetting process will safely complete the final steps of the special immigration process to include medical screening and administrative requirements at Fort Lee, VA.

  • Fort Lee meets DOS’s and DoD’s criteria for a secure location with capacity to house and provide essential services to the Afghan special immigrant applicants. Fort Lee’s proximity on the East Coast allows shorter travel from overseas locations and has the capability for quick utilization as a temporary host installation for Afghan special immigrant applicants.

  • Accommodations will be the same or similar to those used to temporarily house military personnel and families.

  • Air Force personnel will support medical screening at Fort Lee. If an Afghan special immigrant applicant requires medical attention, then a civilian medical professional will provide treatment.

  • DoD does not expect any impact to their mission or its ability to support DoD forces and their families on the installation.

  • To ensure the privacy of the Afghan special immigrant applicants, Fort Lee will be closed to media once the special immigrant applicants arrive.


For more information regarding Afghan special immigrant applicants, or the SIV process, please contact the Department of State at

Imagery of the Fort Lee facilities and support services can be found at