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U.S. military bases incurred millions in damages after hosting Afghan evacuees

U.S. military bases that hosted Afghan evacuees during the Biden administration’s withdrawal from Afghanistan incurred almost $260 million in damages, according to the Department of Defense’s inspector general.

The damages, which made some of the facilities not usable for American soldiers, came as the U.S. airlifted 120,000 individuals from Afghanistan in 17 days.

Defense Department officials approved $259.5 million in repairs and restoration costs across Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine properties, according to an inspector general report made publicly available this week.

During the Afghanistan withdrawal, evacuees were temporarily allowed to stay at Fort Bliss, Texas; Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey; Fort McCoy, Wisconsin; Camp Atterbury, Indiana; Fort Pickett, Fort Lee, and Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia; and Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico.

The Army entities with the most damages were: Fort McCoy ($145 million), Fort Pickett ($26 million), and Camp Atterbury ($15 million).

Fort Lee needed $632,000 to repair ceiling tiles, doors, and electric systems while Fort Pickett received funds for cleaning, painting, and repairing HVAC systems, and plumbing. At Fort McCoy, the majority of the damages were found at the 213 buildings housing Afghan refugees. The report says that some of the costs at Fort McCoy may stem from problems before the refugees came.

Some of the damages were so bad that they inhibited regular operation at some Army properties. In March 2022, a National Guard training had to be relocated from Camp Atterbury in Indiana to Fort Campbell in Kentucky because of damages linked to the evacuation mission.

Air Force officials also reported costly damages to their bases following the evacuation operations. According to the report, officials at Ramstein Air Base in Germany also said that some of the damages by the “guests was unrepairable.”

“Air Force officials describe tables, chairs, and cots broken by guests and tents and cots ruined by spray paint, human biological matter, and holes,” the report said. One official claimed that their materials were “completely depleted” and not available for “real world missions.”

At Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, the report says that “officials reported that guests damaged facility water systems by forcing large items into pipes, causing clogs.” According to the officials, the clogs could not be fixed using “conventional plumbing tools.”

Earlier this year, another report from the Defense Department Inspector General detailed other aspects of the chaotic Afghanistan withdrawal, including lax security enforcement for evacuees at Fort Pickett.

At the fort, there were “few repercussions” for felonies and misdemeanors committed by Afghan evacuees at the fort, examples of which include stealing a vehicle, physical abuse, and making weapons.

When crimes were reported at the fort, security personnel needed the Blackstone Police Department and Virginia State Police in Nottoway County to investigate and make arrests for crimes.

However, because of the other responsibilities of the police in Blackstone, Virginia, “misdemeanors went unaddressed as local law enforcement did not have the capacity to handle them.”

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