The Biden State Department has scrapped an initial plan to bill US citizens desperately seeking to fly out of Kabul $2,000 or more for their evacuation flight home. This is an estimated up to 10,000 or more Americans are still trapped in Kabul, many seeking to make their way to the airport under cover while avoiding Taliban checkpoints.
Harrowing scenes showed Americans in some cases literally standing on the other side of barbed wire barriers screaming for US soldiers guarding airport entrances to help them inside. Word of the $2,000 price tag for the flight home first emerged on social media on Thursday and was later confirmed by the State Department as 'normative' practice, as indicated on its official .gov website.
"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,'" a State Dept. spokesman was cited in Politico as saying.
Following widespread outrage over the hefty fee, which presumably the US government would have collected later after it flew Americans out of harm's way, State Department spokesman Ned Price announced the US plans to drop the fee in this case.
"In these unique circumstances, we have no intention of seeking any reimbursement from those fleeing Afghanistan," Price was widely cited as saying.
"Oh, you'd like to escape the Taliban? That'll be one month's rent, please."— John Cooper (@thejcoop) August 19, 2021
According to The Hill, "The law requires that Americans or other foreign nationals agree to pay back the cost of an evacuation, which is typically comparable to the cost of a full fare economy flight, or comparable transportation to the designated destination."
But it's now pretty much universally agreed upon that the evacuation was botched from the beginning, given the administration delayed and waited despite repeat warnings from military and intelligence officials that the process be started much, much earlier.