On Aug. 15, 2021, the Afghanistan government collapsed as the Taliban took control of the capital city of Kabul. The collapse occurred as the United States was attempting to complete a full withdrawal of American troops — nearly 20 years after the U.S. first invaded Afghanistan.
Since the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul, the U.S. has stepped up efforts to evacuate American citizens and allies. Since Aug. 14, the U.S. has evacuated more than 82,300 people, including at least 4,500 Americans, from Afghanistan, secretary of state Antony Blinken said on Aug. 25.
Congresswoman Claudia Tenney, a Republican from New York, tweeted on Aug. 19 that President Joe Biden was charging Americans for their flights. VERIFY viewer Mike wondered if the U.S. government was charging Americans who are being evacuated.
Is the U.S. government charging Americans $2,000 each to be evacuated from Afghanistan?
No, the U.S. government is not charging Americans $2,000 to evacuate from Afghanistan.
WHAT WE FOUND
On Aug. 7, the U.S. embassy in Kabul urged U.S. citizens to leave the country immediately on commercial flights and offered loans to U.S. citizens who couldn’t afford to purchase a ticket at the time.
The embassy issued another warning a week later on Aug. 14 – the day before the Afghan government collapsed. Americans in Afghanistan were again urged to take commercial flights if possible but also told repatriation flights – U.S. government charter flights – may also be available. Those flights, the alert said, may cost $2,000 or more per person.
“Repatriation flights are not free, and passengers will be required to sign a promissory loan agreement and may not be eligible to renew their U.S. passports until the loan is repaid,” the alert said. “The cost may be $2,000 USD or more per person.”
The State Department says that in times of crisis, the U.S. government will coordinate an evacuation if possible. But the department says it is bound by law to charge people.
“U.S. law requires that the assisted evacuation of private U.S. citizens or third country nationals be provided ‘on a reimbursable basis to the maximum extent practicable,’” the State Department says. “The amount billed to evacuees is based on the cost of a full fare economy flight, or comparable alternate transportation, to the designated destination(s) that would have been charged immediately prior to the events giving rise to the evacuation.”
But a spokesperson for the State Department said the U.S. government is making an exception and not charging evacuees from Afghanistan.
“The Department has not charged any private U.S. citizen, vulnerable Afghan, or third country national to get on a Department arranged flight out of Kabul. Given the situation, the Department does not intend to seek reimbursement from anyone for whom the Department provided transportation out of Kabul,” the spokesperson said in an emailed statement to VERIFY.
During a press conference on Aug. 25, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the State Department made it clear to Americans in Afghanistan that it would “help pay for their repatriation.”
Since her Aug. 19 tweet, Rep. Tenney has acknowledged the Biden administration says it will not charge Americans for the repatriation flights. On Aug. 24, Tenney introduced a bill that would ensure U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents aren’t charged by the U.S. government.
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