GOP Bill Would Prohibit Government From Charging U.S. Evacuees For Flights From Afghanistan

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A The new House Republican bill would ban the US government from charging US citizens for evacuation or repatriation flights out of Afghanistan, a response to the State Department and the US Embassy in Kabul telling evacuees sign a form promising to pay up to $ 2,000 or more to leave the country.

Representative Claudia Tenney of New York, a member of the House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs, said she introduced the Freedom Flights Act on Tuesday, which her office said: evacuation flights or repatriation from Afghanistan now or at any time in the future. Before and after the fall of Kabul, the United States had asked evacuees to fill out a form promising that they would pay $ 2,000 or more for their flight out of Afghanistan, even after the Taliban takeover, failing to day the form only over the weekend.

The bill would codify the policy already stated.

“Under these unique circumstances, we have no intention of seeking reimbursement from those fleeing Afghanistan,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told the Washington Examiner on Thursday.

“The thousands of Americans left behind in Afghanistan by the Biden administration are already fearful for their lives,” Tenney said Tuesday. “They shouldn’t be forced by the US government to fund their own life-saving flights out of the country.”

The legislation, co-sponsored by Representative Brian Mast of Florida and Representative Tom Tiffany of Wisconsin, would require Secretary of State Antony Blinken to “waive all expenses related to the evacuation and repatriation of U.S. citizens and permanent residents. legal for withdrawal from Afghanistan, ”according to Tenney’s office. It also “rescinds any promissory note or obligation to reimburse expenses” of an outgoing US citizen from Afghanistan and “prohibits any federal official or employee from soliciting or accepting funds” for the Afghan evacuation of US citizens. .

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After the State Department issued an alert more than a week ago saying US citizens may have to pay for evacuation flights out of Afghanistan, a report said people hoping to escape are invited to pay. Although U.S. officials have said Politico’s evacuation flights from Kabul will be free, its National Security Daily newsletter reported that some sources said otherwise – including one who said that staff at the State Department charged up to $ 2,000 per US citizen and more from non-citizens.

President Joe Biden said on Tuesday that the United States had evacuated 70,700 people since August 14 and 75,900 since the end of July.

A security alert on “Repatriation Assistance for US Citizens” posted on the website of the Overseas Security Advisory Council, which is part of the State Department’s Office of Diplomatic Security, was released on August 14. – a day before the Taliban entered Kabul – and urged U.S. citizens to take advantage of commercial flights as long as they remain an option, offering advice on eligibility requirements to those looking for charter flights.

Part of the alert said: “Repatriation flights are not free, and passengers will be required to sign a promissory loan agreement and may not be eligible to renew their US passport until the loan is repaid. The cost may be 2 $ 000 or more per person. “

A separate State Department webpage stated, “Regardless of the mode of transportation or who provides it, U.S. citizens (and others eligible for U.S. government assistance) are generally responsible for reimbursing the government for the cost. of their trip. “

The United States Embassy was abandoned more than a week ago. Hamid Karzai International Airport exploded into chaos as crowds of Afghans tried to flee when the Taliban invaded Kabul last Sunday following a poorly planned US military withdrawal.

Thousands of US troops had to be sent back to the country to help evacuate and protect the airport, with the Taliban just outside the perimeter and thousands of Americans and Afghan allies trapped outside. . There have been numerous reports that the Taliban is preventing US citizens and Afghan allies from reaching the airport, and the threat of an ISIS-K terrorist attack has come to the fore.

The US embassy in Kabul warned people last Wednesday that the US government “cannot provide a safe passage” to the airport for evacuation. The newsletter also included a message about every US citizen who must complete a “Request for Repatriation Assistance” form.

The second page of the form tells each applicant that evacuation flights are not free and that the cost could exceed $ 2,000 per person. Each U.S. citizen was asked to complete a checklist to say they understand the conditions or choose not to continue completing the form.

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The Afghanistan evacuation webpage on the State Department’s website also included a connect the Repatriation Assistance Request form with a promise of payment.

The form was still accessible and online on the U.S. Embassy Kabul webpage on Thursday evening, the Daily Caller reported. The Washington Examiner on Thursday found an information page on the State Department’s main website that also invited people to complete the form. From Friday evening in the United States and Saturday morning in Afghanistan, the requirement pay was still there.

It is Saturday morning in the United States (or Saturday evening in Afghanistan) that the form “US Embassy Kaboul Repatriation Assistance Request 2021” was finally changed to no longer include the requirement to agree to pay $ 2,000 or more. Tenney’s legislation would set that in stone.

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Key words: News, Afghanistan, Taliban, State Department

Original author: Jerry dunleavy

Original location: GOP Bill Would Prohibit Government From Charging U.S. Evacuees For Flights From Afghanistan



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