State Department evacuation flights out of Afghanistan will resume by the end of the year, a senior State Department official told The Wall Street Journal.
The operation to retrieve U.S. citizens and Afghan allies left behind will require coordination with the Taliban and other governments, the official told The Wall Street Journal. Kabul’s international airport remains closed to regular passenger travel since the U.S. ended its first evacuation attempt on Aug. 31.
U.S. citizens, U.S. legal permanent residents and immediate family members will receive priority treatment in securing seats on evacuation flights, the official said. The State Department is hoping to eventually have several aircraft leave the country each week.
Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applicants will be eligible for American evacuation flights, but they will need to complete most of the SIV vetting process, according to the official. Other Afghans at risk, such as female judges or government workers, will not qualify under the department’s current plan.
A date to resume the evacuation has not yet been set by the State Department due to details not yet worked out with neighboring countries such as documentation for travelers. “As soon as we have the right combination of documentation and logistics, we will get going again,” the senior State Department official said.
Other issues surrounding stowaways and fraudulent documentation have complicated the process, the WSJ reported. The U.S. does not have the ability to deport Afghans without documentation, and Qatar, which requires passengers to have valid travel documents, will not take them.
“We haven’t been able to get a flight out in a couple of weeks,” the official told the WSJ.
Only a small number of flights have left Afghanistan with evacuees since August, while many Afghans have attempted to flee by crossing land borders. A second State Department official said the U.S. has been working to increase the number of charter flights, which have evacuated over 200 people since Aug. 31.
“Our goal is to accelerate the pace of these ongoing charter flights, and we are working closely with our partners to do that,” the second official said.
“Until the airport is reopened, I think all we have to deal with really is charter flights, because regular airlines are going to find it very difficult to pay the insurance premiums that are required or be willing to fly into Afghanistan,” the first official said.
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