Media coverage of Afghanistan has been widely centered on the thousands of Americans and Afghans who are leaving Kabul Airport on military transport jets. With the Aug. 31 deadline looming, of when U.S. military forces must withdraw from Afghanistan or face severe consequences from the Taliban (who are now armed with U.S. weapons), defense contractor and Blackwater founder Erik Prince has found a way to profit off the dire situation.
The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that Prince guarantees people a seat on a charter flight out of the wartorn country for $6,500. An extra fee will apply if defense contractors extract people from their homes for safe passage to Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul. WSJ wasn't clear on how much the extraction would cost.
Prince's services come as U.S. citizens and Afghan allies are scrambling for the exits of the Taliban-controlled country.
Other defense contractor companies are offering similar services, and some are even offering ground travel out of the country, and of course, all for a hefty fee.
Private rescue efforts are increasing as the U.S. military struggles around the clock to evacuate tens of thousands of people. Approximately 19,000 people have been evacuated from the country between early Tuesday and early Wednesday. White House officials are saying a total of 82,300 people have left the country.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki condemned Prince's actions, telling reporters during her Wednesday press briefing:
"I don't think any human being who has a heart and soul would support efforts to profit off of people's agony and pain if they're trying to depart a country and fearing for their lives," adding that "we are evacuating people free of cost because that is the right step to take and certainly we wouldn't be supportive of profiting off people who are desperate to get out of a country."
.@PressSec Jen Psaki on Erik Prince offering to fly people out of Kabul for $6,500 each: "I don't think any human being who has a heart and soul would support efforts to profit off of peoples' agony and pain as they're trying to depart a country." https://t.co/qBPWqi4QvV pic.twitter.com/EV2L9QP8c3— The Hill (@thehill) August 25, 2021
Biden warned Tuesday there was an "increasing risk" of a terror attack by ISIS fighters but maintained evacuations are going as plan and the U.S. will abide by the Aug. 31 deadline of complete withdraw.
Meanwhile, Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid told Afghan citizens not to leave the country. He said, "the Afghans leaving, we are not going to allow that, and we are not even happy about it."
New Taliban checkpoints have made rescue efforts even harder for U.S. citizens and Afghan allies attempting to traverse city streets or highways to make their way to the airport.
Warren Binford, a law professor at the University of Colorado, called the evacuation "a massive underground railroad operation where, instead of running for decades, it's literally running for a matter of hours or days." He described the evacuation at the airport as "total chaos."
"There is no way with the numbers of people on the ground that we will be able to get everybody out by Aug. 31," said Alex Plitsas, a U.S. Army combat veteran working on rescue operations in Afghanistan.
There's no word yet if an extension of the withdrawal deadline will be seen. What's worse is that Americans and Afghan allies will likely be left behind if the pullout happens at the end of this month.
However, the actual number of Americans still in the country remains fuzzy. Secretary of State Antony Blinken claimed about 1,500 Americans are awaiting to be evacuated as of Wednesday.
Days ago, the US State Department texted a "final message" for those stranded in the country, alerting them that they would be "without assistance," but minutes later was deleted.
Pentagon has stepped up extraction efforts with helicopter rescue missions that took troops significantly outside the airport and into the city on Wednesday.
Whatever happened to the military motto: "No man left behind"? Or what about no American or ally left behind??
Suppose the withdraw deadline isn't extended and troops pull out. In that case, the Taliban will be on a hunting spree using left behind U.S. military biometric devices to search for Americans and Afghan allies.
Maybe Prince's defense firm should create an Uber-style evacuation app where defense contractors can offer their extraction expertise to those who are stranded.