The State Department clarified that U.S. citizens seeking to leave Afghanistan will not be required to pay for evacuation from Afghanistan despite existing United States law requiring “that evacuation assistance to private U.S. citizens or third country nationals be provided ‘on a reimbursable basis to the maximum extent practicable,’” an unnamed department spokesman said on Thursday, according to The New York Post.
Initial reports highlighted that citizens escaping Kabul, Afghanistan, could be charged $2,000 or more for their evacuation flights, but State Department spokesman Ned Price assured the Post in a statement that the administration would not seek reimbursement.
“In these unique circumstances, we have no intention of seeking any reimbursement from those fleeing Afghanistan,” Price said.
The department’s original security alert published on Aug. 14 outlining the repatriation assistance for Americans in Afghanistan said, “U.S. lawful permanent residents may submit a repatriation assistance request, and their request will be considered depending on availability.”
“Repatriation flights are not free, and passengers will be required to sign a promissory loan agreement and may not be eligible to renew their U.S. passports until the loan is repaid. The cost may be $2,000USD or more per person,” the alert continued.
Before the State Department explained its position on charging those fleeing from Afghanistan, New York Republican Rep. Claudia Tenney threatened to push through legislation blocking any fees.
“Biden created this crisis, now he wants to charge Americans who are desperately fleeing the Taliban? That’s wrong,” Tenney tweeted. “We should not be making Americans pay for their ride to safety. I’m drafting legislation now to PROHIBIT the US government from charging Americans, period.”
On Friday, an administration official told American Military News in an email that the Biden administration has evacuated “approximately 13,000 people on US military aircraft since August 14, and relocated approximately 18,000 people since the end of July. The US military evacuated 5,700 people in last 24 hours alone. The US military evacuated 3,000 people since last night’s update.”
Only a fraction of those evacuated have been Americans, with just 169 Americans being evacuated on Thursday alone.
“The Biden Administration is leading an unprecedented and highly complex global effort to coordinate safe transit out of Afghanistan for thousands of US citizens, SIV applicants and their families, vulnerable Afghans, and third-country nationals,” the official said. “We have already secured a number of agreements for these passengers to temporarily transit through other countries, and have been working aggressively to secure additional agreements. We are deeply grateful for the generosity of our international allies and partners, including those who are working shoulder-to-shoulder with us on the ground in Kabul to support what is already one of the largest airlifts in history.”