Is the Biden administration charging American citizens a $2,000 fee for evacuation from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan?
Politico reported as much on Thursday, citing an unnamed source. The news outlet even discussed the matter with a State Department spokesperson who failed to deny the claim.
Then, later on Thursday, The Hill reported State Department spokesman Ned Price said, “In these unique circumstances, we have no intention of seeking any reimbursement from those fleeing Afghanistan.”
However, on Friday, The Western Journal looked into the State Department’s very own “Afghanistan Evacuation” form and found a striking contradiction to Price’s claim.
A State Department spokesperson told The Hill that people evacuated from Afghanistan by the US will not be charged “reimbursement” fees.
Upon filling out an application for “Afghanistan evacuation” on the State Department’s website, here’s what I found. pic.twitter.com/BP4FjPLLpe
— Michael Austin (@mikeswriting) August 20, 2021
After filling out some personal information, the form redirects to a page that states the following:
“All passengers will need to reimburse the U.S. Government for the flight. A promissory note for the full cost of the flight, which may exceed $2000 per person, must be signed by each adult passenger before boarding. No cash or credit payments will be accepted.”
Additionally, Politico alleged that some U.S. citizens have already been charged the fee.
Is the State Department telling the truth?
“Even though U.S. officials tell NatSec Daily and others that evacuation flights from Kabul will be free, people trying to catch a plane in the Afghan capital say differently,” the outlet reported.
“One person said State Department staff were seeking large payments — up to $2,000 — from American passengers and even more from non-U.S. citizens.”
According to the Hill’s report, there is a federal law mandating “reimbursement for U.S.-chartered evacuation flights.”
“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,” the Hill reported.
Scrambling amidst the Taliban’s swift takeover of Afghanistan, it is quite possible that department officials forgot or didn’t think to remove the “reimbursement” section from the website.
Or, in light of Politico’s reporting, it may be that the State Department intended all along to charge Americans trapped in Afghanistan following what many have described as an overly hasty, reckless military withdrawal led by the Biden administration.
If this was the case, it would be reasonable to assume that the threat of a PR nightmare pressured the administration into removing the fee.
Also, the careful wording of Price’s statement to the Hill leaves some questions unanswered and some wiggle room for the State Department to charge fees other than those related to the flight itself.
Just because fleeing Americans will not be charged “reimbursement for U.S.-chartered evacuation flights,” does not mean they won’t be charged any fees at all.
Politico’s report similarly did not specify that the fees would be directly related to the flight itself.
“One person said State Department staff were seeking large payments — up to $2,000 — from American passengers and even more from non-U.S. citizens,” Politico reported.
Regardless of what any spokesperson says, until the State Department’s website is updated, any American citizen hoping to flee Taliban-held Afghanistan will be forced to sign a legally binding promissory note for payment of up to $2,000 to the United States government.