Many planes are reportedly leaving Afghanistan nearly empty while private organizations are begging the U.S. government, to no avail, to let them charter private flights to airlift more American citizens and Afghans who assisted the U.S. mission.
Major General William “Hank” Taylor, the deputy director of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, said Thursday that while the military has the capacity to move between 5,000 and 9,000 people per day, only 2,000 were moved in a 24-hour period. Breitbart News reported that C-17 Globemaster planes, capable of comfortably fitting 300 people, took only around 110 people each on 18 flights that evacuated 2,000 people from the country.
“That doesn’t mean… just because you have 5,000 seats that you can automatically fill 5,000 seats every day,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said during a Thursday press briefing.
The issue apparently is not about lack of transport, but about convincing governments to allow Afghan people and foreign nationals on a plane to fly into their respective countries and speed up the paperwork to do so. Until Friday, Kirby claimed that, while there have not been reports of the Taliban attacking American citizens, the Taliban has been harassing Afghan allies attempting to travel to Kabul Airport. The U.S. government did, however, warn Americans in Afghanistan that they cannot guarantee their safety. Kirby may have not heard the reports from Americans whom the Taliban beat with rubber fan belts on their way to the airport until he acknowledged the fact Friday, days after it was first reported.
At a U.S. State Department briefing on Thursday, spokesman Ned Price admitted the process has been slow but said they expect double the amount of consular officers to arrive by Friday to assist with processing.
“We will have the capacity that we need to process as many individuals as we can to fill the flights,” Price said.
The Department of Defense expected 20 flights to go out on Thursday night and possibly Friday morning carrying 6,000 people who had already been processed at the airport. However, CNN’s Clarissa Ward reported Friday that for at least 8 hours, no flights had left the Kabul airport:
No flights have left the Kabul airport in the last eight hours, per @clarissaward, who is at the airport.
— Kaitlan Collins (@kaitlancollins) August 20, 2021
Despite some photos of packed U.S. flights from Afghanistan, flights to other countries are also well below capacity.
Former Royal Marine Pen Farthing tweeted a photo his wife took from a near-empty military evacuation plane, a C-17 Globemaster, to Norway, with the caption, “BUT this aircraft is empty…scandalous as thousands wait outside #Kabul airport being crushed as they cannot get in”:
Kaisa is on her way home! BUT this aircraft is empty…scandalous as thousands wait outside #Kabul airport being crushed as they cannot get in Sadly people will be left behind when this mission is over as we CANNOT get it right 💔@SecDef @VP @cnnbrk @BBCBreaking @SkyNews @itvnews pic.twitter.com/FoAxFrzT1K
— Pen Farthing (@PenFarthing) August 19, 2021
One U.S. military C-17 flight Sunday did transport 823 adults and children.
An unverified GoFundMe raised over $6 million Friday “to conduct an emergency flight rescue of 300+ Afghan souls” (original emphasis) as people try to flee the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate.
Even former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, “offered a few seats for Afghan employees on a charter flight her team was trying to arrange to help Afghan women at risk,” as reported by the New York Times. Ultimately, no one took her up on the offer.
Interesting tidbit in here: Hillary Clinton is evacuating people from Afghanistan on private planes. Never been a Hillary fan, but GOOD ON HER. https://t.co/zQ0edo1R1k
— Liz Mair (@LizMair) August 20, 2021
Another issue facing Americans and Afghans is the possibly more than $2,000 cost of the flights. The U.S. Government, using Microsoft Forms to gather sensitive, possibly life-saving information from evacuees, stated on their “U.S. Embassy Kabul Repatriation Assistance Request 2021” form, “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.”
Between last week and Thursday, the U.S. military had flown out 7,000 people, including Americans, Afghans, and other foreign nationals, Taylor said.
At least 15,000 Americans and around 70,000 Afghans are still waiting to fly out, Defense One reported Friday, though exact estimates have varied.
Kirby confirmed to Fox News on Sunday evening that the Biden administration will not give priority evacuation to Americans in Afghanistan over Afghans applying for visas. On Thursday alone, Americans made up only 300 of the 2,000 people who were flown out of Kabul, Kirby confirmed, noting that the breakdown could look different every day.
President Joe Biden, who returned early from his summer vacation at Camp David to deal with the withdrawal, once again postponed travel plans Friday. Biden has been criticized on all sides for his handling of the Afghan war after the Taliban toppled the U.S.-backed Afghanistan government last week and seized billions of American taxpayer dollars worth of U.S. military supplies.
“Leaving Americans behind for death is an unforgivable dereliction of duty, which will go down in infamy,” Trump’s statement read.