State Dept. will not charge for evacuation flights from Afghanistan

State Dept. will not charge for evacuation flights from Afghanistan
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People evacuated from Afghanistan by the U.S. will not be charged the cost of their flight, State Department spokesman Ned Price told The Hill.

"In these unique circumstances, we have no intention of seeking any reimbursement from those fleeing Afghanistan," he said. 

The statement provides a point of clarification over federal law that mandates the State Department seek reimbursement for U.S.-chartered evacuation flights.

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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 Biden administration’s evacuation efforts in Afghanistan are in chaos amid the Taliban’s takeover of the country and control over the capital city of Kabul that occurred at a breakneck pace. 

The administration has evacuated 7,000 people from Afghanistan since Saturday, including 2,000 Americans.

The Department of Defense says it is hoping to scale up efforts and evacuate between 5,000 and 9,000 people per day, but chaos on roads leading to the airport and at its gates are hampering efforts for the State Department to process those for evacuation flights. 

Price on Thursday said that about 6,000 people have been processed for evacuation at Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport

His statement on the free flights pushes back against reports that those seeking to board American evacuation aircraft have been told they must pay for the flights. 

Politico reported in its National Security newsletter on Thursday that at least 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. 

A State Department spokesperson referred Politico to federal law that calls for evacuees to reimburse their evacuations. 

At least two congressional aides contacted by The Hill who are corresponding with Americans stuck in Afghanistan were not aware of reports of charges for flights.