Under pressure, State Dept. scraps plan to bill Kabul evacuees $2K for flights

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WASHINGTON — The State Department was forced to scrap a widely excoriated plan to bill US citizens $2,000 or more for their evacuation flights from Kabul.

The hefty price tag drew social media outrage Thursday after it gained public notice.

“In these unique circumstances, we have no intention of seeking any reimbursement from those fleeing Afghanistan,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement provided to The Post.

The cost was publicly posted to a State Department website on Saturday but went largely unnoticed before it was highlighted by Politico’s military-focused newsletter Thursday.

An unnamed State Department spokesman initially stood by the charge, telling Politico that “U.S. law requires that evacuation assistance to private U.S. citizens or third country nationals be provided ‘on a reimbursable basis to the maximum extent practicable.’”

But the cost drew widespread condemnation.

In one widely circulated tweet, Heritage Foundation communications director John Cooper tweeted, “Oh, you’d like to escape the Taliban? That’ll be one month’s rent, please.”

The State Department was pressured to scrap a plan that would’ve charged evacuees $2,000 for their flights.
SHAKIB RAHMANI/AFP via Getty Images

The State Department’s Overseas Security Advisory Council said in an Aug. 14 advisory, “U.S. lawful permanent residents may submit a repatriation assistance request, and their request will be considered depending on availability.”

The advisory says, “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.”

Some civilian flights remain available out of Afghanistan. For example, Air India has pledged to continue operations so long as the Kabul airport is open. One-way direct tickets to Delhi are available for Sunday for $147.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby speaks during a media briefing at the Pentagon, Monday, Aug. 16, 2021
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the military doesn’t know how many US citizens are still in Kabul amid the chaos.
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Thursday that the US military doesn’t know how many US citizens are still in Kabul, referring questions to the State Department, whose top spokesman Ned Price said Thursday that the answer is not known.

President Biden says the last US troops will leave Afghanistan by Aug. 31. Ahead of the deadline, the Taliban swept through Afghanistan in a stunning rout that resulted in a desperate scramble to Kabul’s airport.

French and British troops are venturing into the Taliban-controlled Afghan capital to escort their citizens to safety. The US military is not doing so for Americans.

US soldiers stand guard as Afghan people wait to board a US military aircraft  to leave Afghanistan
US soldiers stand guard as Afghan people wait to board a US military aircraft to leave Afghanistan.
SHAKIB RAHMANI/AFP via Getty Images

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